Council puts limits on medical marijuana gardens

December 09, 2004

Graham Moes , Clovis Independent

The Clovis City Council approved temporary regulations Dec. 6 governing the growth and distribution of medical-use marijuana within city limits.

The restrictions, adopted by a unanimous vote, prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries serving three or more patients. They also include stipulations that the drug be cultivated under strict supervision away from neighborhoods and schools at a rate of no more than six mature or 12 immature plants per qualified individual.

'Without a city ordinance in place, medical marijuana dispensaries could operate within the city without restrictions,' according to the Clovis Police Department.

Clovis Police Capt. Russ Greathouse, in urging passage of the ordinance, said the city of Fresno's October decision restricting medical marijuana dispensaries there has raised fears that growers may relocate to outlying communities like Clovis.

Greathouse said cities with neighborhood marijuana gardens have reported numerous problems ranging from the 'skunk-like' smell of ripening plants to a marked increase in trespassing, burglaries and violent encounters between growers and citizens.

Police Chief Jim Zulim's department keeps no records on how many people are currently growing the drug within city limits, but it points to a 2003 incident to highlight the potential for trouble.

That year, a Clovis couple was arrested at home for cultivation of marijuana and for armed commission of a felony after they had taken to sleeping in their back yard armed with shotguns to thwart area high schoolers from jumping the fence to raid their medical marijuana garden. According to a police press release, the couple was also accused of paying Bulldog gang members to assault one young trespasser.

'It's a situation that will lead to something none of us want to see happen,' Greathouse said.

Though still a federal crime, California voters approved the use of medical marijuana with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. This year, the state legislature granted cities the right to regulate application of the law.

Whether or not federal drug laws trump state law where medical use is concerned is an issue currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

'This all may be a moot point if [the 1996 law] is found unconstitutional,' said Council Member Jose Flores.

The council will revisit the issue Jan. 10 to consider a permanent ordinance.

In other council action:

The council approved a rezone to 'planned commercial center' status of nearly 6 acres at the southwest corner of Herndon and Clovis avenues, paving the way for a 33,500-square-foot commercial center in the city's 'Golden Triangle' retail park.

Three building pads were proposed, comprised of a 25,000-square-foot structure for the incoming ITT Technical School campus, a 4,000-square-foot restaurant pad, and 4,000 square feet of retail space.

The council approved the rezone in a unanimous vote, with minor changes allowing churches within the new zoning designation, restricting grocery stores to conditional-use status there, and assuring ITT it would receive signage along Freeway 168 as promised.

The council voted to return to its regular schedule of three meetings per month, opting against a 90-day pilot program in which Council had tested a four-per-month schedule since September.

The council's Dec. 20 meeting was also canceled due to lack of business items.

E-mail Graham Moes at gmoes@clovisindependent.com.



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