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Large Crowd Expected At Pot Hearing

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
CHICO - A hearing on a proposed ordinance governing the cultivation of medical marijuana in unincorporated Butte County is expected to draw hundreds of people to a rare evening meeting of the Board of Supervisors Wednesday.

After more than a year of heated and passionate discussion, the supervisors will hear the public one more time, then have the option of adopting the ordinance and the fees associated with it.

A five-hour hearing in February saw a crowd that was well over twice the official capacity of room, crammed into the Supervisors Chambers in Oroville. That situation prompted the board to move the rare night meeting to a much larger Chico Elks Lodge venue.

At the center of the discussion are land use regulations controlling how many plants can be grown where, what setbacks are required on what size parcel, fencing requirements and other issues.

Number of allowable plants is contingent on the acreage of the property involved.

Over the months the proposed ordinance has evolved through various incarnations.

In the earliest version no more than two plants could be grown on a one-acre or smaller lot.

The current proposal allows for up to six mature plants to be grown on a 1.5-acre or smaller parcel.

The ordinance also requires that gardens on the 1.5-acre or small lots be at least 100 feet from "a school, park, church, or residential treatment facility" and mandates the plants not be visible from street or public right of way.

One of the earlier drafts of the ordinance required that owners of the smallest gardens pay an annual "registration fee" of $832, which could climb to $1,231 depending on the size of the property devoted to the garden. That incarnation also included a $44 "zip-tie fee" per plant, which amounted to a census fee to track the precise number and specific individual plants.

The ordinance on the agenda Wednesday calls for a $285 annual registration fee that is the same regardless of the size of the parcel, and the zip-tie fee has been totally eliminated.

During previous meetings many of those who spoke asserted Proposition 215, which was passed by state voters in 1996, gave medical marijuana users, an absolute right to grow and use cannabis as long as they had a "recommendation" from a physician.

It is a claim Butte County Sheriff Jerry Smith denies.

"That recommendation does not make growing marijuana legal. They have no right based on that recommendation to grow marijuana or otherwise possess it. The only thing the recommendation does is allow them, if they are arrested, to present an affirmative defense on their behalf," said Smith.

The "affirmative defense" means the individual can challenge any prosecution because of Proposition 215. Smith said as a practical matter, when officers come in contact with somebody who has a small amount of "personal use" marijuana, they are not arrested or prosecuted.

Referring to the February meeting, the sheriff told a reporter, "You heard those people in the back of the room shouting down ( District Attorney ) Mike ( Ramsey ) and I, saying, 'This is our right. This is our right.' They have no right to break the law. They have an affirmative defense if they are arrested based on a recommendation the doctor provides them with."

Because of the anticipated crowd at Wednesday's meeting, the board has announced plans to allow each speaker a strictly enforced two minutes to make their statements for or against the proposal.

Butte County Board of Supervisors

5:30 p.m. Wednesday

Chico Elks Lodge

1705 Manzanita Ave.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Chico Enterprise-Record (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Chico Enterprise-Record
Contact: letters@chicoer.com
Website: Home - Chico Enterprise Record
Details: MAP: Media Directory
Author: Roger H. Aylworth
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