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Sacramento County Bans Outdoor Grows

The grow bans are spreading in California.

Sacramento County supervisors voted to ban outdoor pot cultivation April 22. The county is just the latest community to turn on growers in the local war on medical marijuana.

The vote was unanimous. Sheriff Scott Jones told supervisors cultivation sites have increased across the county because of ambiguous laws and inconsistent enforcement. He pointed to sites near a local high school and a soccer complex.

“We’ve seen a profusion – an explosion – of marijuana grows,” Jones said.marijuana plants growing indoors

Supervisors didn’t go as far as some communities have and order a full ban on all cultivation, indoors and out. Instead they asked staff to bring them a proposal for regulations allowing medical patients to grow indoors.

MMJ proponents said law enforcement was overplaying the dangers tied to cannabis grows, but agreed it was wise to crack down on large growers. The important thing, they said, is to make sure patients’ rights are respected.

“We agree with pretty much everything you said today,” Bob Bowerman of the Sacramento chapter of NORML, told supervisors.

The new restrictions will probably take effect in June. They will cover unincorporated parts of the county, though some incorporated communities have their own regulations.

Sacramento, for example, bans outdoor grows in residential areas. Elk Grove, like the county, bars all outdoor cultivation.

Sacramento County joins a small but fast-growing number of local governments using a recent court decision as grounds to prohibit cannabis cultivation – despite the fact that it’s explicitly allowed by the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

In November the 3rd District Court of Appeal, which cover Sacramento County and much of Northern California, ruled that the City of Live Oak could ban all marijuana grows. Fresno County soon followed suit, banning cultivation indoors and out and enacting criminal penalties for violators.

The court’s decision was quietly approved by the state Supreme Court this year. The high court refused to hear the case on appeal, so even if the issue reached the justices from another appellate court – a remote possibility – the local governments would likely win.

indoor grow marijuana plantSacramento County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan introduced the ordinance that bans outdoor grows. She also sponsored an ordinance to prohibit indoor grows. But other supervisors said they preferred regulating indoor gardens to banning them, so she agreed to continue discussion.

County officials got into a debate with pot advocates about how much weed a patient should consume in a year. Michael Neves, an assistant chief deputy district attorney, said patients should need no more than 2 pounds a year.

Ron Mullins of the local NORML chapter disagreed. He said he smokes about 5½ pounds of weed each year. That works out to less than seven joints a day, which would be reasonable for a heavy medical user. But Supervisor Susan Peters insisted nobody should smoke that much pot.

“No way – that’s too much,” Peters said.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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