Planners gathering information on medical marijuana

May 27, 2005

, Ukiah Daily Journal

The Ukiah Planning Commission heard two more hours of testimony this week from supporters of medical marijuana patients who want the city to back off its ordinance forcing marijuana growing indoors.

The urgency ordinance now in effect expires in June in the expectation that the Planning Commission will come up with a zoning ordinance that will relieve problems now associated with marijuana growing in the city: odor and crime.

Planning Commissioner Judy Pruden, the only commissioner who has stated publicly that she does not support forced indoor growing, says the commission will likely begin deliberating on language for a permanent ordinance at its June 8 meeting.

'We're going to have to, here in another two weeks, really start reviewing the ordinance,' she said. 'I think there's certainly been sufficient information that we can start making decisions.' 

Pruden said there appears to be at least two places where the commission and the medical marijuana proponents agree: that renters will need permission to grow pot from landlords and that any marijuana plants should have to be grown at least five feet from the property's fence line.

Pruden said she feels the commission also needs to come up with a 'threshold' number of plants for each parcel -- not each patient or caregiver.

'I don't care if you have a handful of ID cards in one household, how much can one parcel tolerate?' she said.

In high density neighborhoods, where you might have six homes in one block, if each had a marijuana garden, that's 'maybe too intense.'

Dane Wilkens, the executive director of Northern California NORMAL -- a marijuana law reform group -- gave commissioners a proposed ordinance from Americans for Safe Access, which Pruden said they hadn't seen before.

According to Wilkens, it simply suggests setting up a citizen's advisory board and letting that body deal with problems rather than regulate legal marijuana growing at the zoning level.

'It seems like we're making some progress; people are coming together and people are understanding each other,' Wilkens said Saturday.

The suggested ordinance would 'create a group that can oversee the problems as they come up,' he said. 'Instead of making our requests long and complicated and hard to deal with, we thought we'd make the priority the oversight group to get us going in the right direction.'

Pruden said she thought a citizens group would be necessary regardless of likely regulations.

'I think at least for a couple of years we may need a citizen's advisory board ... for those instances where people consider (marijuana growing) a nuisance in some way, either with increased traffic or odor,' she said. 'A CAB could mitigate, sort of like the barking dog kind of thing ... to work out a solution.'

The commission will continue discussion of a permanent medical marijuana growing ordinance at its meeting June 8.

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