The Lake County Board of Supervisors directed staff Tuesday to draft an interim urgency ordinance restricting medical marijuana cultivation within the unincorporated areas of the county. Staff will take into consideration comments from the BOS, the public and those of the Lake County Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance Advisory Board.
Community Development Director Richard Coel is expected to bring the draft document back for BOS consideration on June 26. “In the last three meetings, I’ve gotten a pretty good sense of what the (advisory board) members want,” he said. “Having an interim ordinance would make a big difference; you can always amend it. We really need more clarity with an actual ordinance in effect that is going to help the Sheriff.”
The BOS held a lengthy afternoon discussion Tuesday. Members of the public and the advisory board weighed in. There was agreement between parties involved in the discussion about issues of cultivation operations on vacant lots and dangers associated with large commercial grow sites.
However, while Supervisor Anthony Farrington said he would not like to circumvent or devalue the done by the advisory board, BOS Chairman Rob Brown wanted to reduce the number of allowable plants recommended by the board by half.
“The numbers would not be more constrictive than what the (advisory board) members seem to agree upon,” Farrington said.
Farrington also said that he wanted to be assured that the interim ordinance was not a “mirror-image” of the previous ordinance that was rescinded. Supervisor Denise Rushing also indicated a mirror-image ordinance would be in jeopardy of experiencing the same petition-type effort that resulted in the last ordinance being rescinded.
Supervisor Jim Comstock agreed with Brown about reducing the number from six to three. “It’s going to be three plants,” Comstock said.
Dr. Rob Rosenthal, who is a member of the advisory board, said state law allows patients six plants. “There are people who do need more. When I’ve given out these recommendations I tell my patients to follow state law because there is no (county) ordinance,” he said. “I would like to have (an ordinance) that is bullet-proof. The people who think they can grow 99 plants without justification, they need to be addressed.”
Large commercial grows and operations showing up on vacant lots were an area where common ground was obtained by the majority. Comstock said grow sites on occupied residential property should also be addressed. The use of guard dogs by the cultivators was also recognized by the majority as an issue.
“What we really want as a board is to get these larger grows, which are everywhere, under control,” Rushing said.
Attorney Ron Green said there needs to be balance. “If you close the dispensaries, people are going to need another way to get their medical marijuana legally,” he said. “They are either going to grow it themselves or collectively. It’s a balancing act and people do need a legal source.”
Rosenthal said that SB420 is meant to protect the rights of legitimate patients and gives them the right to participate in collectives. He said SB420 does not limit the number of people who can participate in a collective.
Phil Murphy said there must be some form of legal professional grow operations. “The board says they support safe access, but where are the clubs going to get the marijuana,” he asked.
“As far as I’m concerned they can grow it someplace else,” Brown responded. “What I’ve seen is a lot of commercial grows that do nothing to benefit anyone in Lake County. Two-thirds of the people don’t grow. We witnessed that last week.”
Members of the public spoke about attacks on livestock and other animals by dogs used to guard large-scale operations. Jack Laird, of Middletown, said one of his miniature horses was mauled and had to be put down. “I found out the same dogs went across the street and killed four goats,” he said. “Nobody took responsibility for it. (Growers) just disappear.”
Doug Clarke, of Clearlake Oaks, said there is a grow site less than 25-feet in front of his property. He said his property has lost $120,000 of its value because of what is happening. “The property values should be a huge concern to the Board of Supervisors,” he said, adding that his postal service was withheld at one point because of the grow site adjacent to his home.
“I understand the fear they are talking about quite well,” John Brosden, president of the Green Farmers Association, said. “I’m suggesting that we do give some respect to our state officials.”
Supervisor Jeff Smith said he would like to see language in the ordinance that protects property owners. “I always thought we should have some provision that specifically stated that if you don’t own the property, you have to have written permission from the property owner to grow there,” he said. “It’s a protection of the owner-citizens who we represent, too.”
Coel said at minimum the interim ordinance should ban commercial grow sites, which he said he sees as a commercial grow without a primary home established.