Work on marijuana ordinance continues

July 18, 2006

Claudia Reed, Record-Bee

Grow it indoors. Grow it only in an industrial zone. Don't grow it within city limits.

Those are some of the options an ad hoc committee working on an ordinance to control marijuana growing brought to the last city council meeting.

An earlier option: permitted growing within backyard greenhouses, appears to have been abandoned. Greenhouses, committee members said, would leave the crop too visible and too vulnerable to theft for community safety.

So far, protecting the community from crime, unpleasant odors, and possible negative health impacts from airborne pollen are the concerns that appear legally supportable in a state that permits the growing of medical marijuana.

Permission to grow inside a home, however, was not an option that engendered much enthusiasm from council members.

Mayor Tami Jorgensen said the walls of a home wouldn't offer much protection once pot thieves realized someone was growing "25 plants in their family room." The resulting breakin and related violence could endanger the neighbors, she said.

Similarly, Jorgensen said, house walls would do little to protect neighbors from unpleasant fumes during the summer when windows are left open.

"When the neighbor cooks steaks I smell it," she said.

Councilman Denny McEntire asked about the impact on homes that are rented, rather than owned, by the growers. He told the story of bedrooms in one such home lined with plastic and filled with dirt for an indoor garden. The resulting damage was so severe, he said, that the rooms had to be torn off the building and rebuilt.

Councilman Ron Orenstein, who serves on the ordinance committee, suggested limiting marijuana growing to industrial zones. His suggestion was rejected by the four other committee members Councilwoman Holly Madrigal, City Manager Ross Walker, Chief of Police Gerry Gonzalez, and Community Development Director Alan Falleri.

The possibility of making marijuana growing off limits altogether was also discussed with warnings about likely resulting legal challenges.

"Any ordinance could engender a lawsuit," said Walker, who is also an attorney, "but one or more (option) might be more easily defendable."

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