West Sacramento considers banning outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana

December 04, 2012

Darrell Smith, Sacramento Bee

West Sacramento may join a string of cities across the region in at least temporarily banning outdoor plantings of medicinal marijuana.

A decision on a proposed 45-day moratorium could come at the City Council's meeting today following a public hearing on the issue starting at 7 p.m. at West Sacramento City Hall, 1110 W. Capitol Ave.

The proposed ban could be extended for as long as two years.

If the moratorium is adopted at the meeting, it goes into effect immediately and runs to Jan. 19. Primary caregivers and their patients would still be able to grow cannabis under a roof if the temporary ban goes into effect, said city officials.

If council members do not adopt the moratorium, city staff will return in the spring with draft regulations for city leaders to consider.

West Sacramento officials last year passed a ban on outdoor cultivation associated with marijuana dispensaries, but left alone provisions on growing for personal medical use.

But city staffers say they have since become aware of rising burglaries and thefts of marijuana plants that they say are connected to cultivation.

That and the nuisance the plants' strong odor creates in the city's neighborhoods led to the push for a temporary ban.

Staff members cite police statistics that show a dramatic rise in marijuana-related complaints.

West Sacramento police have received 112 such complaints to date this year, department statistics show.

That's more than twice the 60 complaints filed last year, nearly as many as during the previous four years combined and 43 percent of all narcotics complaints filed so far this year.

"It seems to be more prevalent," said Charline Hamilton, the city's community development director. "Plants are stolen. Homes are burglarized. Each year, it's getting worse."

But medical marijuana advocates say moving cultivation indoors would be too costly for patients who would have to rely on hydroponics and other equipment and that cities are too hasty in imposing outdoor growing bans.

"By forcing (growing) inside, it can be prohibitive for many patients. We believe patients need the option to grow outdoors," said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Oakland-based medical cannabis advocate Americans for Safe Access.

Hermes added that cities' bans are a "knee-jerk reaction to complaints received from people in the community."

"They're using a blunt instrument to make the lives of thousands of people more complicated," Hermes said.

West Sacramento is just the latest city in the greater Sacramento region to look at outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana.

Sacramento leaders enacted a ban last month that went into effect Nov. 20. Roseville imposed a ban Nov. 1. Elk Grove banned outdoor growing in April, and Lodi considered a similar ban in October.

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