From the 1.12.11 issue. For all the articles, SUBSCRIBE today.
By Daniel Mintz
Press Staff Writer
The county’s Planning Commission has been told that a new regulatory proposal excessively restricts the lynch pin of the county’s economy – marijuana.
The Commission reviewed a draft of a new medical marijuana ordinance at its Jan. 6 meeting and quickly found out that growers and medical marijuana advocates are rallying to oppose it.
Marijuana cultivation was described as the county’s economic cornerstone – a contention that commissioners acknowledged as truth. But Community Development Services Director Kirk Girard said there’s also support for new restrictions.
“There are many people who say this ordinance doesn’t go far enough,” he told commissioners.
Covering residential growing and dispensaries, it’s only part of the county’s approach to new regulations. A more substantial and ground-breaking aspect will be setting rules for outdoor growing, a process that Girard said will take six months to a year.
During public comment, several medical marijuana advocates said the proposed ordinance circumvents medical marijuana rights and attacks what they described as the county’s marijuana-based economy.
Several of the speakers were from Southern Humboldt, an area of the county that has much at stake regarding the issue. Robert Sutherland told commissioners that the draft ordinance “unreasonably and prejudicially treats one form of agriculture with vastly stricter standards than any other form of agriculture” and advances “escalating warfare and renewed attack pandering to the petty resentments and prejudice of the past.”
Kim Nelson of the Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel advocacy group said he doubted that any of the commissioners are involved in the marijuana industry but asked them just in case, drawing laughter from the audience and commissioners.
Nelson proposed the formation of an industry-based “cannabis council” and warned that a poorly-drafted ordinance will have financial effects.
“This is the economic base of the county and everyone knows it,” he said.
The county’s draft ordinance is heavily-influenced by what the City of Arcata adopted in 2008. Redway resident Charley Custer questioned the idea of copying what Arcata’s done.
“This draft, as you know, is taken from Arcata’s Nip It In the Bud campaign that was written to drive pot out of Arcata and now we want to take the ordinance that drives pot out of Arcata and make it countywide,” he said, adding that doing so will draw patients into “the county’s regulatory roach motel of title queries and property inspections.”
Greg Allen, the chairman of the county’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter, called marijuana the “economic lifeblood” of the county. “In this room, with this group, first steps are going to be made to nurture this economic lifeblood or to kill and I’m sure hoping that you folks will nurture it,” he told commissioners.
Commissioners advised audience members to work as a group and submit a version of an ordinance that they can support. The hearing was continued to the Feb. 3 meeting.
Two permit hearings for medical marijuana dispensaries – one proposed for a commercial building on Redwood Drive in Garberville and another on Myrtle Avenue in the greater Eureka area – were also continued to Feb. 3.
The county’s draft ordinance applies to personal cultivation in residential areas and to collectives, co-ops and dispensaries. It cuts per-patient growing area by half, to 50 square feet.
It names 1200 watts as a maximum lighting standard and mandates that “no visual, auditory or olfactory evidence” of cultivation” is allowed from public right-of-ways or neighboring houses.
Co-ops, dispensaries, collectives and delivery services are also regulated under the new ordinance. The total number of all of them is limited to 12 in the county. They’d need conditional use permits and would only be allowed in “specifically enumerated zones.”
None could be within a 600 foot radius of a school and the cumulative impacts of being within 500 feet of churches, schools, playgrounds, parks, libraries, residential treatment facilities and other dispensaries would be considered.