City Council votes to require pot cultivation be indoors

February 03, 2006

Seth Freedland, Ukiah Daily Journal

The Ukiah City Council's ongoing modification of its marijuana cultivation ordinance took another divergent leap Wednesday, when the council voted to require that all cultivation take place indoors.

The council members chose to focus on the public safety and quality of life concerns neighbors of pot-growing Ukiahans have delivered to city staff. After four months of administering the ordinance, various issues, including odor and air quality complaints, and an increase in acts of violence and intimidation, led the city to move all medicinal pot growing out of the public domain.

The city's definition of "indoors" directly means within a "fully enclosed and secure structure," which could include a greenhouse with lockable doors. This shift also eliminates any needed distance from schools or parks.

Another primary change in the ordinance is a doubling of the amount of marijuana that can be grown per residential parcel to 12 mature plants per parcel, from six. This shift is intended to accommodate households with two qualified patients or caregivers.

Legal sticking-points also forced the city to eliminate the permit process, because the requirement to apply for the use permit to conduct an activity illegal under federal law would violate the citizen's right to protection from self-incrimination, staff said. The permit was originally intended to put neighbors on notice, officials said, but also give some control over the logistics of outdoor growing. With the loss of the permit process, and the associated control mechanism, the council unanimously moved to move all cultivation indoors.

Staff also pointed out that the city's planning department would benefit by having the administrative burden lifted, as well as eliminating the accusation that the permit is a de facto prohibition, because it is so burdensome. (No one has ever applied for the use permit.)

Members of the vocal pro-medicinal pot community spoke privately before the meeting of the financial barrier indoor growing would create for cannabis patients. Pebbles Trippet, of the Medical Marijuana Patients Union, called heat lamps and other apparatuses "prohibitively expensive" to grow her medicine. She added that the equipment was potentially dangerous as well, considering many cannabis users are elderly.

But during the meeting, Trippet and other members of the patients union, instead strongly advocated for a Citizens Advisory Board to mediate disputes related to marijuana cultivation. Council members, vocal in their disappointment in hearing a lack of acknowledgement of more general public safety impacts, largely dismissed their request.

The council did universally admit the cultivation ordinance will evolve over time and will hear the amendments for final approval at the next meeting.

Seth Freedland can be reached at udjsf@pacific.net .



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