A Lake County advocacy group has filed a petition to prevent the county from enforcing an ordinance that imposes tight new restrictions on medical marijuana cultivation.
The Emerald Unity Coalition and the Community Alliance to Ban Illegal Cannabis Cultivation, both pro-marijuana groups, submitted more than 4,000 voter signatures to the county registrar of voters Jan. 15. Their filing has temporarily blocked the ordinance from taking effect.
At least 2,115 of the signatures must be certified by the registrar’s office as belonging to registered voters in Lake County. If that happens, voters will decide in the June primary election whether they want the ordinance.
The new policy was adopted by county supervisors at their Dec. 17 meeting after just one reading. Most ordinance require two, allowing for more public feedback and slower implementation, but because this was a zoning issue, only one was required.
The ordinance would have banned outdoor cultivation within so-called “community growth boundaries,” areas that are expected to develop out within the next 20 years. Only six mature or 12 immature plants would have been allowed on lots outside these boundaries, and those parcels would have to be at least one acre.
Grows on vacant parcels would also be banned, though they were already prohibited, while indoor cultivation would be limited to 100 square feet. Indoor grows would also have to be kept 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other sites that serve children, as well as 100 feet from bodies of water.
But because the marijuana advocacy groups submitted their petition, the ordinance is on hold. It will only take effect if the registrar finds too few valid signatures were submitted or if voters in June accept the ordinance.
For the time being, an older marijuana policy will be in place. That was approved in July 2012 and imposes less restrictive requirements.
It also bans cultivation on vacant parcels, but doesn’t regulate indoor grows. It allowed for more plants, with numbers depending on the size of the parcel: six plants on half an acre, 12 plants on a lot of half an acre to an acre, 18 plants on lots of one to five acres, 36 plants on five- to 40-acre parcels and 48 plants on lots 40 acres or larger.
The groups that submitted the petition wanted to keep that ordinance in place, but supervisors complained the county was seeing an increase in crimes and public disturbances related to cultivation sites. The old rules weren’t solving the problem, they said.
Attempts to stamp out medical marijuana by tightening rules on cultivation – sometimes banning it altogether – are becoming increasingly common in California, despite the state’s 1996 MMJ law, which explicitly allows home cultivation. Fresno County recently prohibited all grows in all unincorporated parts of the county. Officials are facing resistance from activists there, too.