Another day, another city in Northern California has banned outdoor marijuana grows.
The city council of Martinez, located in the northern Bay Area, voted 4-0 May 7 to prohibit all outdoor cultivation of cannabis, despite the state law that specifically allows California residents to grow their own medical weed.
Martinez becomes another in a growing list of California communities targeting cultivation as a means to stamp out medical marijuana entirely. The council passed the ordinance on the sly, at a meeting without open debate or public speakers.
City leaders said they chose an outdoor ban as a response to neighborhood complaints.
The vote comes in the wake of a ruling by a state appellate court last November. The court, which covers Northern California, held that local governments are within their rights to ban all cultivation, regardless of the Compassionate Use Act – the MMJ law passed by voters in 1996.
So far almost all the cities and counties to take advantage of the ruling are located in NoCal, most in the Sacramento Valley. The most stringent rules, out of the City of Live Oak and Fresno County, prohibit all pot cultivation of any kind. Violators are treated as criminals, with severe fines and jail time.
Patient advocates appealed the court’s ruling, but the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning the decision stands.
The city first acted on the issue earlier this year. The Martinez Planning Commission voted 3-2 to pass an ordinance that limited residents to six plants. The city council adopted the ordinance at an emotional meeting in March where some residents appealed for a total ban.
The Supreme Court announced several days after that vote that it would not review the appellate decision. Mayor Rob Schroder said council members opted for the less restrictive ordinance because they worried the city might be sued. Once the final ruling came down, they decided to go with a ban.
“That makes all the difference,” said Mayor Rob Schroder. “I am now in favor of a total ban.”
The outdoor grow ban passed a preliminary vote April 16, in front of a full house of speakers on both sides of the issue, plus camera crews from San Francisco. More than two-dozen residents spoke.
This time, however, the council slipped the ordinance through without a peep. No debate was held, and citizen comments were cancelled, even though a large crowd showed up representing both sides.