Medical marijuana regulations discussed

May 15, 2007

Katie Mintz, Ukiah Daily Journal

The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors Criminal Justice Committee met Monday to continue discussing the development of policies to regulate medical marijuana possession, cultivation and dispensaries.

The committee, comprised of Supervisors Jim Wattenburger and Michael Delbar, was joined by about 50 people in a crowded county conference room to discuss options that will eventually be brought before the entire board for approval.

Currently, Mendocino County allows cultivation of a 100-square-foot canopy of mature marijuana plants regardless of the number, as well as possession of 2 pounds of processed marijuana for medical marijuana patients with a doctor's recommendation.

The guidelines, implemented by former District Attorney Norm Vroman and former Sheriff Tony Craver, expand upon the minimum limits of six mature plants or 12 immature plants, and up to 8 ounces of processed marijuana, as set forth in Prop. 215, which made the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in California legal in 1996.

"The law allows for medical marijuana, and I don't think this board is in opposition to state law," Wattenburger said, noting that the committee is meeting to "try and come up with some sensible solution to a wide-open, Wild West in Mendocino County."

County Counsel Jeanine Nadel presented a draft resolution for possession guidelines to Wattenburger and Delbar that did not yet specify a limit on plants or processed marijuana.

According to Nadel, a survey of other counties shows most allow for 3 pounds of processed cannabis and 25 to 30 plants.

Measure G, an initiative passed by county voters in 2000 with a 56 percent vote, states that persons with 25 or fewer adult plants or the equivalent in dried marijuana for personal use, medicinal or otherwise, should not be investigated, arrested or prosecuted by county law enforcement.

Nadel said the committee should take into consideration the 25-plant limit referenced in Measure G as the will of the voters, however she noted that the district attorney and sheriff, under the supervision of the state attorney general, have the discretionary authority to arrest and prosecute regardless of any limit decided upon by the board.

Sheriff Tom Allman, who presented at the meeting an idea for a zip-tie program to make identification of legitimate medical marijuana plants easier for law enforcement, said 25 plants seemed reasonable.

If the county were to adopt the state minimum of six plants, he said the Sheriff's Office could spend all of its time doing nothing but enforcing the rule.

He also advocated for a plant-count limit rather than square-footage limit, saying that officers would need to start carrying a calculator to determine if people were sticking to the allotted area.

"I just want a reasonable ordinance so law enforcement can go out and fairly earn our wages," Allman said. "With the confusion as it is, it's very tough to give direction."

While a discussion about dispensaries was on the agenda, the highly-attended meeting with a number of medical marijuana advocates and some opponents, ran overtime and the topic was continued to June (exact date to be announced).

Wattenburger asked that issues such as where medical marijuana should be grown -- for instance, distance from schools and indoor or outdoor -- be included for discussion at the next meeting.

Katie Mintz can be reached at udjkm@pacific.net.



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