Pot ordinances: One ready for vote, another on hold

September 18, 2005

Claudia Reed, The Willits News

WILLITS -- The final version of an ordinance regulating in-city marijuana growing is expected to be up for a vote at the Sept. 28 Willits City Council meeting.

An ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries will not be on the agenda for another year. In the meantime, a moratorium will remain in effect.

As presented at the Sept. 14 council meeting, the ordinance on growing bans all outdoor cultivation as a public nuisance. Cultivation is defined as planting, growing, harvesting, drying, or processing of marijuana plants or any part thereof.

It would be similarly illegal to own, lease, occupy, or have charge of a property in which outdoor cultivation takes place.

The ordinance does not specifically limit or ban indoor growing, but gives the city the right to abate any nuisance that might result from indoor growing operations. Findings of associated possible nuisance include the generation of strong odor ... offensive to many people and detectable far beyond property boundaries and an increased risk of burglary, robbery and armed robbery.

The document refers to a near fatal shooting in 2002 over an outdoor marijuana crop on Franklin Street and a 2004 armed robbery of a home where medical marijuana was kept.

"The right of qualified patients and their primary caregivers under state law to cultivate marijuana plants for medical purposes does not confer upon them the right to create or maintain a public nuisance," the ordinance reads.

"I have no problem with the way this is drafted," said Mayor Tami Jorgensen. "It doesn't prevent the growing of ... medicine."

There were no objections to the ordinance from other members of the City Council.

The proposed ordinance was developed by an ad hoc committee made up of council and staff members and worked into a legal document by city attorney Jim Lance.

The one-year deferment of an ordinance on medical marijuana dispensaries relates to legal challenges to such ordinances taking place elsewhere in the state. Rather than crafting an ordinance and facing the cost of a court fight, the city plans to learn from the results of battles now underway.

"I recommend you wait for litigation to be resolved in other areas," Lance told the council.

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