Medical Marijuana Limits OK'd

July 14, 2004

Leann Whitten, The Eureka Reporter

Some said it wasn’t enough. Some said it was too much. Others said it would do for now. After hearing more comment on Tuesday, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors adopted a medical marijuana ordinance. The board adopted an ordinance that deems three pounds of dried cannabis “a reasonable amount” for medical marijuana patients to cultivate, possess and consume per year.

The recommendation is the same as District Attorney Paul Gallegos’ guidelines which he set in 2003, except the county’s proposed ordinance does not specify an amount of plants within a 100-square-foot canopy.

The task force was created by the board in March to “study the proposed ordinance adding … the Humboldt County Code relating to medical marijuana guidelines for the implementation of Proposition 215 and California Senate Bill 420.”

The proposed ordinance says a qualified medical marijuana patient or 215-cardholder cannot engage in the possession “in any place where smoking is prohibited; in or within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a school, recreation or youth center, unless medical use occurs within a residence; on a school bus; while in a motor vehicle that is being operated; or while operating a boat.”

In September, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 420 which set a statewide minimum for medical marijuana patients of six mature plants or 12 immature plants and up to 8 ounces of processed cannabis flowers. SB 420 also allows local governments to set their own guidelines, using it as a minimum.

Proposition 215 — the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 — says regulations “relating to the possession of marijuana … and cultivation of marijuana, shall not apply to a patient or to a patient’s primary caregiver, who possesses or cultivates marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient upon the written or oral recommendation or approval of a physician.”

“I don’t know how much more we can talk about it without being absurdly redundant,” Supervisor Roger Rodoni said, before reading the recommended action to adopt the ordinance.

Harriet Gray, a task force member, was one of a few speakers to address the board before a unanimous vote, Chairwoman Jill Geist absent, to approve the guidelines.

Gray said a smaller amount would be impractical for medical marijuana patients. She said while she and other proponents would have liked to see 6 ½ pounds with 144 square feet, but law enforcement made that impossible.

Supervisor John Woolley said law-enforcement officials who were members of the task force came into meetings desiring federal guidelines.

Eureka Police Chief Dave Douglas had not seen a copy of the final ordinance as of The Eureka Reporter’s deadline Wednesday.

Gray said it’s important that law enforcement makes a clearer distinction between drug trafficking and medical marijuana.

“Sick people should not be further stressed,” she said, adding that this ordinance will protect patients’ rights better.

Gray told Supervisors Bonnie Neely and Geist to emphasize representation of the people in their districts, rather than law-enforcement’s viewpoint.

Greg Allen, an Arcata attorney, said the ordinance’s limits were responsible if a little conservative. He said the ordinance will serve as a blueprint for law enforcement.

“They want to do right thing but they don’t always know what that is,” Allen said. “We have the right to do things on a local level.”

Arcata resident Charles Douglas said he supported a speedy adoption of the ordinance as it stood, but encouraged the board to keep the task force active to make further refinements to the issue.
“We can strengthen (the protections) later,” he said.

Eureka resident Mark Vargas who is a medical marijuana patient said three pounds was very conservative because other ways of consuming marijuana uses more. For health reasons, he said he doesn’t smoke it.

Woolley and Rodoni, who served on the task force, were both commended several times for their efforts by many speakers Tuesday.

Supervisor Jimmy Smith said he was concerned about the ordinance’s mention of law enforcement compensating patients for marijuana seized in error.

“We have to be very cautious about liability,” he said.

County Counsel Tamara Falor said that clause is advisory in nature and encourages entities to compensate but does not require it.

“Anyone can sue anyone for anything at anytime,” Falor said. “I can’t guarantee you we won’t get sued.”

Smith said he would like to revisit the ordinance “to see how it has landed.”

Falor said ordinances can be revisited at any time and it would have to be if there any changes to SB 420, which the ordinance is grounded in.

Smith said many constituents have told him three pounds is too much. He said he reluctantly supported the ordinance.

“I think this is the right amount,” Woolley said. “We’ve done the best we can.”

Woolley said refinements in the future would be necessary one way or another.

In other business, the board unanimously approved an agreement for airport consulting services with Mead & Hunt Inc. — the Santa Rosa firm that is preparing the Master Plan updates for Arcata-Eureka and Kneeland airports.

The new contract is phase two, Public Works Director Allan Campbell said, of the airport update process and will update the Dinsmore, Garberville, Murray Field and Rohnerville airports. The $200,000 consultant fee is funded by the Federal Aviation Administration, 90 percent, and matched with passenger facility charges collected by the airlines.

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