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West Sacramento May Ban Outdoor Grows

More communities in California are turning to cultivation bans as a way to put the squeeze on marijuana providers and users, including the perfectly legal kind.

An ordinance headed for a vote before the West Sacramento City Council would make it illegal to grow weed indoors without a city-issued permit. It’s an extension of an existing ban on outdoor grows connected to MMJ dispensaries, but it would make it much harder for providers and patients to grow their medicine.

In 2011, when they passed the ordinance that banned outdoor cultivation, council members made exceptions for qualified patients and primary caregivers so they could grow medication for personal use. Now, those people will have to move indoors and obtain licenses.

indoor marijuana growThe new policy could take effect as soon as March if it’s approved by the city council. The city’s planning commission voted in favor of it in December, and it will come before the council at a public hearing in January, followed by a second reading.

“It’s overkill, in my opinion,” said Dale Gieringer, NORML’s director for California. Marijuana “should be grown outdoors. It’s not a dangerous thing to have outside.”

Gieringer said his group would fight the permitting process for people who grow for personal use. There are legitimate concerns tied to big grows, such as odor, he said, but not personal cultivation.

“It’s pretty obnoxious. It’s your big government approach to this issue,” Geiringer said. “We support licenses for non-personal use, but not for personal use.”

Cities, counties and towns in California have long used zoning regulations and similar rules to keep medical cannabis dispensaries from doing business in their borders. The state Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that this approach is legal despite the state’s 1996 MMJ law.

Now, a growing number of places are using cultivation bans as an additional way to vent their ideological preference for federal over state law. Also in 2013, a lower appellate court ruled that California communities may restrict outdoor cultivation by patients.

That case, out of Tehama County, involved a much less stringent set of restrictions. Nonetheless, other communities have followed the decision to its logical extreme by banning outdoor grows completely.

Some places have gone even further. In December, Fresno County supervisors voted to outlaw all cultivation in unincorporated parts of the county, indoor or out, with no room for permits or licenses. Fines start at $1,000 a plant. Dispensaries are already banned there in part of a ham-handed attempt to remove all pot from the Central Valley.

The justification for West Sacramento’s crackdown? A soaring increase in cultivation-related complaints in recent years: from 10 in 2010 to a staggering 27 in 2013.

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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