There will be no more outdoor marijuana grows in much of Lake County.
Voters opted to ban all outdoor grows in the more populated parts of the Northern California county during the June 3 election. They voted in favor of a policy adopted by county supervisors last year and challenged by marijuana proponents at the ballot.
Under the ordinance, outdoor grows will be illegal within so-called “community boundary lines,” or lines within which unincorporated communities are allowed to grow over time. These zones cover relatively little of the county’s overall unincorporated land, but are centered on the most populated areas.
In addition, indoor cultivation will be limited to 100 square feet, and the outdoor grows that are allowed will be kept 1,000 feet from schools, parks, rehab facilities, child care centers, churches, and youth centers; and 100 feet away from bodies of water. Those plots, if larger than one acre, will be allowed to grow no more than six mature or 12 immature plants.
Lake County: Marijuana and the Drought
Lake County is in a region hard-hit by California’s epic drought, and many backers of the ban say outdoor marijuana farmers are making the situation worse, draining critical water from area streams and polluting the environment.
“People are coming in, denuding the hillsides, damming the creeks, and mixing in fertilizers that are not allowed in the U.S. into our watersheds,” said Denise Rushing, a Lake County supervisor.
Marijuana farmers and their supporters say that isn’t a fair accusation. However many of them there may be, they say, they’re only a small part of the overall picture – hardly enough to have a major impact on drought conditions.
The Lake County Marijuana Ordinance
The Lake County Board first passed the cultivation ordinance in December, voting unanimously to join a growing list of communities turning to grow bans as a way to limit medical marijuana. At the time, supervisors said they were facing a rising tide of nuisance complaints, minor crime, and environmental damage.
But marijuana activists quickly fought back. They gathered more than 4,000 signatures, almost twice as many as they needed, and succeeded in putting the ordinance on the June 3 municipal ballot.
That wasn’t enough to stop the ban, though. Marijuana measures don’t usually do their best when they appear an primary election ballots on days with very low turnout.
Lake County Weed Proponents Fight On
That doesn’t mean advocates have given up. They plan to advance a competing ordinance to the November ballot, where turnout will be larger, and more young, pro-weed Californians will vote.
The ban, they say, essentially just recriminalizes legal behavior. Their approach would be less restrictive, would allow the county to collect revenue from growers, and would provide the money for a county department tasked with regulating weed grows, said Daniel McLean, campaign manager for the Community Alliance to Ban Illegal Cannabis Cultivation, a group opposed to the ban.
“One thing that we hear from the community development department and the sheriff’s department is that they do not have the funds or resources to adequately enforce the laws,” McLean said earlier this year.
The current ordinance, he said, is “ineffective, discriminatory and very difficult to enforce.”