Political action committee launches referendum on marijuana cultivation ordinance

Elizabeth Larson, Lake County News

An effort to stop the Board of Supervisors' recently passed marijuana cultivation ordinance is under way, with signature gathering now taking place for a referendum.

A newly formed political action committee called Community Alliance to Ban Illegal Cannabis Cultivation, or CABICC, held a meeting about the ordinance this past weekend, as Lake County News has reported.

One of the group's organizers, Michael Horner, said in an email message to Lake County News that the referendum was presented at the meeting.

The group opposes the new marijuana cultivation ordinance accepted unanimously by the Board of Supervisors at its Dec. 17 meeting.

The ordinance goes into effect on Jan. 16 and applies only to the unincorporated areas of the county.

It bans outdoor cultivation in community growth boundaries; limits indoor grows to 100 square feet or less; keeps outdoor cultivation 1,000 feet from schools, parks or other facilities serving children; and 100 feet from water bodie; offers quicker abatement and makes the Lake County Sheriff's Office responsible for enforcement.

CABICC is part of the Emerald Unity Coalition, which includes the United Food and Commercial Workers, CANORML, Americans for Safe Access, Patients Rights Coalition, Emerald Growers and California Cannabis Industry Association, according to Horner.

It has filed for committee status with the state, according to the California Secretary of State's campaign finance Web site.

The group announced on its Facebook page Monday that signature gathering for a referendum has begun, with both professional signature gatherers and volunteers being employed in the effort.

Lake County Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley said the group doesn't need to get preapproval from her office before gathering signatures, but it does have to use a regular petition format.

She said they must collect approximately 2,115 signatures – 10 percent of the entire votes cast in Lake County for all candidates for governor in the November 2010 election – by Jan. 15, the day before the ordinance's effective date.

“Once it's effective, too late, they’d have to go through the initiative process,” Fridley said.

According to a calendar of key dates Fridley provided to Lake County News, her staff will have until Feb. 28 to determine if there is the required number of valid signatures, with Fridley required to certify the petition and present it to the Board of Supervisors early in March.

At that point the board can choose to withdraw the ordinance or submit the referendum to the voters for the June 3 primary election.

Previous ordinances instituted by the Board of Supervisors to govern medical marijuana cultivation and dispensaries – passed in August and October 2011, respectively – have been challenged by referenda.

The board rescinded the dispensaries ordinance in October 2011 and directed county staff to enforce the zoning ordinance, which currently contains no provisions allowing for dispensaries. That led to all dispensaries in the unincorporated county being shuttered.

In addition, the supervisors rescinded their previous cultivation ordinance in January 2012, with the Measure D initiative written by marijuana advocates defeated by a two-to-one margin in the June 2012 election.

The following month, the board approved the first reading of its interim urgency marijuana cultivation ordinance, which currently remains in effect.

The Lake County Citizens for Responsible Regulations and Lake County Green Farmers Association, which led the referendum effort against the previous cultivation ordinance and put forward Measure D, are listed as members of Community Alliance to Ban Illegal Cannabis Cultivation.

While the Board of Supervisors' response to past referenda has been to withdraw the challenged ordinances, comments by board members at the Dec. 17 meeting revealed that they expected the document to be challenged and were prepared to let the new ordinance stand.