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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Sonoma May Rein in Medical Pot Rules

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (CN) - The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is voting on whether to repeal a 2006 resolution allowing medical marijuana patients to possess up to 30 plants and 3 pounds of dried marijuana per year, a local newspaper reported Sunday.

Citing concerns that the "very permissive," guidelines are cultivating a criminal element in the county, Supervisor Shirlee Zane told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, "We're attracting a lot of people here who want to make a lot of money quick. This is a very lucrative industry, and it's got a lot of problems," according to the paper.

Zane and fellow Supervisor Valerie Brown, who are proposing the change, led an ad hoc committee to study the issue, the paper reported.

According to the committee's report, "Some growing operations are producing illegal drugs not intended for compassionate use clients.

Marijuana growing occurs on remote public or private lands without the owner's knowledge or consent, creating trespass and serious safety problems due to criminal activity.

Growing operations create serious adverse environmental impacts from erosion, fertilizer use, waste materials, native vegetation damage and water quality." The report also cites building and zoning violations, excess electricity usage, and "inappropriate locations, such as near schools or in rural residential neighborhoods," as concerns involving indoor growing operations.

The proposed new resolution would amend the county's zoning ordinance to cap the number of dispensaries in the county, prohibit growing in unoccupied residential buildings and establish a Marijuana Taskforce to develop enforcement and education efforts, according to the Board's 861-page agenda packet.

Supervisors Zane and Brown were not available for comment by press time.

The Board drew fire from medical marijuana advocates, who not only criticized the proposed changes but "said the process seemed intentionally secretive," according to the paper. Omar Figueroa, the defense attorney who co-wrote the Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012, said, "It sounds like they're trying to slide it in when people are at their busiest, they think people won't be paying attention," the paper reported.

The paper notes that Robert Jacob, Sebastopol's vice mayor, "criticized the county for waiting until six days before the vote to alert medical cannabis supporters," Jacob is also the founder of a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary.

Responding to these criticisms, Zane said, "Philosophically, we're going to have to agree to disagree. We vote on public policy every week and we don't always include stakeholders," the paper reported.

At press time, the board meeting was in progress and a final vote was not yet available.

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