Supervisors OK Ordinance Permitting Pot Grows for Medical Purposes

RIVERSIDE – Riverside County supervisors have approved an ordinance permitting limited cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes in unincorporated communities and establishing penalties for those who violate the law.

With Tuesday’s 4-0 vote – with Supervisor John Tavaglione absent – the Board of Supervisors added Ordinance No. 925 to the county’s books, specifying under what conditions marijuana may be grown and the consequences of non-compliance.

The measure takes effect July 2.

There was little discussion before the vote. However, during the first public hearing on the proposal last month, Supervisor Kevin Jeffries described it as a “compromise allowing for legitimate medical marijuana use while cracking down on illegal growers.”

Advocates for cannabis deregulation expressed support for the measure, but several county residents who testified at the May hearing were dead-set against it, saying it would only exacerbate the burgeoning problem of illegal pot grows.

Jeffries first brought the matter forward more than a year ago, after he and his staff identified an estimated 200 to 250 illegal grows in his First District, dotting areas of Good Hope, Meadowbrook and Mead Valley.

The supervisor originally intended simply to stiffen penalties against for-profit growers. But following an outcry last summer from medicinal marijuana advocates – who found a friendly voice in then-Supervisor Jeff Stone, a pharmacist – Jeffries went back to the drawing board, endeavoring to take what he termed a more equitable approach.

Under the new regulatory regime, “registered” medical marijuana patients, who have county-issued documentation certifying their eligibility to use the drug medicinally, along with their caregivers, will be exempt from county enforcement action.

Under the ordinance, a patient will be entitled to have 12 cannabis plants on his or her
property, two patients on the same parcel are allowed the maximum of 24 plants and at least one patient or a registered caregiver must live on the premises where marijuana is grown.

Other regulations include securing marijuana to prevent access by minors, grows in apartment buildings and properties within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and daycares are prohibited and residents are required to obtain permission from landlords before growing pot. A grow cannot be closer than 10 feet from a roadway or neighboring property and must not be visible from a public right-of-way, though this will not apply to properties that are five or more acres in size.

Violators will be subject to civil fines and penalties of up to $1,000 a day, as well as misdemeanor charges. Unpaid fines could result in county tax liens on properties. Sheriff’s deputies and code enforcement officers will be responsible for enforcing the ordinance.

Under the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, also known as Proposition 215, the possession and cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes is legal. However, localities can regulate the conditions under which grows are established and the responsibilities of the parties involved, according to statutes passed by the Legislature and signed into law in 2004 and
2010.

The measures lie at the core of the Medical Marijuana Program and have been upheld in two appellate court decisions, one of which stemmed from a challenge to a city of Riverside ordinance outlawing storefront and mobile marijuana dispensaries. That culminated in a 2013 California Supreme Court ruling in favor of the city.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration still views marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic prohibited under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

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