revisions were discussed at the Sierra County Board of Supervisors’ meeting in Downieville on Tuesday, February 2. Board Chair Lee Adams stated over a year ago after concerns from the community regarding developing an ordinance, the Board weighed in, had committee hearings and adopted an ordinance promising a review at the end of the year to see how it went. Adams continued, and said there were some community concerns asking for changes to the ordinance, and on October 9, 2015 the State adopted AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643 on the subject of cultivation of marijuana. He said the committee had taken a lot of public testimony and acknowledged this was a passionate subject. Adams thought it was important to understand the three new bills so introduced Paul Smith, a senior legislative advocate for Rural County Representatives of California “RCRC” who was involved in the legislative process from the viewpoint of rural counties. Smith gave a disclaimer before starting by stating it was never the policy of RCRC to advocate for marijuana. He said this is about making a regulatory structure work for counties. Smith stated three years ago RCRC was in the middle of fighting a medical marijuana bill. Smith and his colleague felt they could get run over if they didn’t come up with something the counties could live with. They adopted policy principles after a lot of thought and discussion. Smith said the four cornerstones are to preserve local control, explicit county taxing authority, ending the collective model, and addressing environmental impacts. He continued the legislature adopted the three bills that are an interlocking package. Smith talked about four key local control provisions, adding this was an area that involves a lot of litigation so they wanted to make local control airtight.
Smith said a licensing model will go into effect somewhere around January 1, 2018.
Smith went over AB21 that is sitting on the governor’s desk, due to be signed. He said they interpret this bill to be able to retain regulation over personal and caregiver grows. Smith stated AB243 speaks to personal grows and if you are growing more than 100 square feet, you’ll need some sanction from CDFA. He added that a permit would also be needed on 500 square feet for patient caregiver grows.
Smith talked about two other bills that have not been voted upon yet: AB1548 Cultivation tax bill on medical marijuana, where proceeds are heavy on the environmental side, and AB1575 Medical Marijuana clean up bill.
Chair Adams asked when the square footage comes into play. Smith did not know, and thought maybe it was concurrent with the licensing scheme.
Supervisor Jim Beard asked how a caregiver is defined. Smith said someone who is intimately involved in your life. County Counsel Jim Curtis likened it to In Home Supportive Services.
Adams asked if six plants was the floor or the ceiling. Smith said the ceiling for indoor grows, adding medicinal side has a different set of rules than the recreational side.
Adams addressed the audience and said there was no consensus county wide on this issue, adding he and Supervisor Paul Roen who make up the committee, tried to come up with a framework everyone could live with.
Detective Mike Fisher also sat in on the committee and wanted to bring up a few items, one of which was adding an administrative fee. He had heard from a lot of people both pro and con and felt without putting a penalty to this ordinance there’s no reason to follow it. Fisher said Fresno has a penalty of $1,000 fine per plant out of compliance. He asked the Board to consider adding administrative penalties to the ordinance.
Sheriff Tim Standley said the sheriff’s office received several complaints. He stated it was hard to find a happy medium. He added the County had no appetite for commercial activities and 72 or 18 plants per person was not working. Standley said there was no way he had staff to go after every single person.
An audience member wanted to apologize for how upset he got the last time he was before the committee. He was worried about the price of growing indoors and felt the electric company wouldn’t be able to keep up. He said if it goes indoors he wouldn’t be
able to afford it, adding he counted over $3,000 to do it
indoors. He asked the Board to look at this.
Pike resident and chiropractor got involved with this 8 years ago when her mother had cancer. She now grows for her cousin with prostate cancer. She didn’t understand the 10x10, adding it sounded very unrealistic, as she wouldn’t put 10 rose bushes in a 10 x 10 area. She felt they needed time to work this out.
Another audience member said there was a difference between residents in the woods and the residential area in Sierra Brooks. He thought it was legitimate to ask for relief from a nuisance. He said the more other counties deny it, the more people come to Sierra County.
A Pike resident thought the recommendation from the committee was more than disappointing. He said there are cancer patients surviving, adding medical marijuana is a legal drug. He stated leaders should be working with the community to look at a solution focused path to well informed policy and felt if people are here for less than 5 years they shouldn’t be allowed to grow.
A Sierra Brooks resident felt it’s a quality of life issue, adding the ordinance is about Prop. 215 but at the same time they need to follow the money. He urged the supervisors to vote on this.
A local resident and a cannabis patient user, who lives way out in the woods, said the 100 sq. ft. is not enough for a patient. He has been using medical cannabis instead of pharmacy drugs. He stated it was not addictive, and he has been smoking it for 45 years and has quit cold turkey. He concluded by stating it has improved his and his family’s lifestyle.
One audience member wanted to talk about commercial use, adding that medical cannabis is an agricultural product. He urged the board to lean toward commercial grows, and regulate it with water and environmental protection. He felt the word commercial had been demonized.
A Loyalton resident said no one was arguing against using it, adding it was about the amount of plants. She thought the new proposal sounded fair, and felt the Board should wrap it up.
Beals thanked the Board for the work they had been doing. He said the devil was in the details, and asked the Board to consider recreational vehicles that have been defined as permanent residences. Beals wanted it made clear in the ordinance that a residence requires a permit.
Supervisor Scott Schlefstein wanted some things amended in the ordinance as it looked like there was nowhere in the house you could grow. Adams said he worried about other occupants moving into a home where an indoor grow occurred as well as had kids present. Adams asked if the Board would like to just strike that part of it.
From the audience it was stated that these ordinances don’t help the people, they take the people’s rights away. Another audience member would like to see the fines be $100, and thought $1,000 is as much as a misdemeanor. Another audience member would like to see the 10x10 bumped up. Detective Fisher said a misdemeanor is $5,000 and six months in jail. Adams felt people would comply if the fine was high, and higher than 10x10 would be a commercial grow. Adams is also making a recommendation to put this on the ballot to see if Sierra County thinks this ordinance is good. When asked about commercial grows
Adams said they could get 10% of the voters signatures and this issue could be put on the ballot. One audience member said they couldn’t put 10 plants in a 10 x 10 spot.
County Counsel Curtis will bring back an ordinance in two weeks given the changes the Board was requesting. The Board reminded the audience that the County Clerk had received 234 signatures against the current ordinance.
Roen made a motion of intent with changes made by County Counsel to be brought back at the next meeting.
The motion was passed unanimously.