Grow your own? DA wants to thin your crop

April 02, 2007

Robyn Moormeister, The Union (CA)

Local marijuana farms may soon be thinning out as the district attorney plans to implement new, more stringent standards for growers with doctors' recommendations.

Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell has completed a first draft of the new standards, which reduce the number of marijuana plants allowable from the current limit of five to 10 plants to a new limit of six mature plants or 12 immature plants.

The proposed standards will also permit marijuana smokers in Nevada County with recommendations to have eight ounces of the dried plant on hand as opposed to the two pounds allowed by current standards.

A public forum addressing the reduction will be held April 18 in Nevada City.

"We're doing this to target major commercial operations, not to discourage recreational adult users or medical marijuana users," said new Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson, hired last month by Newell.

Newell also plans to implement the state's Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program, a card issued by the county meant to verify a recommendation has been given by a doctor.

The cards make it easier for law enforcement to track those who are valid users and those who are not, Newell said.

Nevada County Health and Human Services Director Jeff Brown is expected to discuss the card program at the Nevada City forum.

The state charges $71 to process the ID card while local municipalities tack on an extra charge to cover the local costs of the program, Brown said.

He said medicinal marijuana is legal by state law if someone has a recommendation, but a card offers added insurance for users who may not be able to immediately contact doctors to verify the recommendations for law enforcement.

"If someone is stopped in the middle of the night by a police officer, that officer can check the state database on the Web and verify the recommendation is valid," Brown said. "You can't do that with a recommendation. It gives people peace of mind."

Ferguson said she expects a small percentage of people will be upset by the new standards, "probably the people who live off of it."

When standards for medicinal growers in the county were originally drafted in June 2000, prosecutors were not aware it is possible for one plant to yield about two pounds, much more than one sick person could possibly use for medicinal purposes before the shelf life ran out, Newell said.

"When we first set this up, we weren't aware of what we were dealing with, frankly," Newell said.

Three plants can easily yield a year's supply for one medicinal user, he said.

Narcotics officers say marijuana's shelf life can vary from a few days to a few months.

"A lot depends on packaging," Narcotics Task Force Sgt. Chris Sharp said. "If it's exposed to moisture it can develop mold or fungus, but if it's vacuum-pack sealed it can last longer."

Newell said many growers have taken advantage of the current standards, many selling the illegal drug for a living and putting children and neighbors at risk with dangerous growing practices.

"Children are not mini-adults," Newell said, adding that the health of children who grow up around marijuana farms is often adversely and permanently affected.

A helicopter ride over Nevada County reveals the entire area is littered with marijuana farms, he said.

"It is growing thick in people's yards," he said. "There is a lot of it."

He said the drug is not harmless, especially in that it is often traded for large amounts of methamphetamine, cooked in massive Mexican labs.

"That's how (meth) gets up here," Newell said. "Marijuana is not benign in a commercial sense."

Newell said he expects the forum will be well attended by supporters and critics of the new standards.

The medical marijuana exemption forum will be held at 6 p.m., April 18, at City Hall in Nevada City, 317 Broad St.

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Proposed standards for medicinal marijuana users

The DA's new standards for medicinal marijuana users will:

• Reduce the number of marijuana plants allowable from the current limit of five to 10 plants to a new limit of six mature plants or 12 immature plants.

• Permit marijuana smokers in Nevada County with recommendations to have eight ounces of the dried plant on hand, opposed to the two pounds allowed by current standards.

• Implement the state's Medical Marijuana identification Card Program, a card issued by the county meant to verify a recommendation has been given by a doctor.

 


To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@theunion.com or call 477-4236.
 



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