A referendum in Lake County to challenge a supervisors’ ban on outdoor marijuana cultivation by medical marijuana patients has failed to overturn the ban. In December 2013, the Chamber of Supervisors in Lake County, a north-central county encompassing Clear Lake, voted in a new ordinance banning outdoor cultivation of marijuana within community growth boundaries.

“The Lake County Chamber supports the rights of legitimate medical marijuana patients as was intended by Proposition 215,” the supervisors stated back in May. “However, we have heard from members of the chamber and others throughout the county who are concerned about the cultivation of marijuana in their neighborhoods and the county as a whole.”

The county ordinance was one of many passed in the wake of the so-called Live Oak California appellate decision that was allowed to let stand by the California Supreme Court. The City of Live Oak had already banned medical marijuana dispensaries, an action deemed lawful by the California Supreme Court in the Riverside case. When Live Oak then also banned all marijuana cultivation, both indoor and outdoor, Americans for Safe Access and California NORML sued, arguing that with no dispensaries and no personal grows, the plaintiff, James Maral, was being denied his rights under the Compassionate Use Act.  

Specifically, plaintiff’s counsel argued that Senate Bill 420 set a floor of six mature plants and 12 seedlings. Localities could adopt higher limits, counsel argued, but not reduce or eliminate the six-plant mandate. Live Oak’s counsel argued that the Compassionate Use Act provides no rights to medical marijuana, merely protection from criminal prosecution. The Court of Appeals sided with Live Oak and in a 4-3 decision the California Supreme Court denied review of the case, letting it stand as California law.

Following the Live Oak decision, many counties rushed to pass their own versions of cultivation bans. But when Lake County passed its outdoor cultivation ban, activists with the Community Alliance to Ban Illegal Cannabis Cultivation (CABICC) collected over 4,000 signatures to put the ordinance to a public vote. In last Tuesday’s elections, 52.6 percent of voters agreed with the Supervisors that all outdoor grows are banned within urban growth boundaries and within 1000 feet of schools and parks and 100 feet from bodies of water. Indoor grows are also restricted to a 100-square-foot grow space.  

According to California NORML, 23 of California’s 58 counties and numerous California cities have some sort of outdoor cultivation restrictions or complete bans. The activists with CABICC complain that the new ban is “ineffective, discriminatory and very difficult to properly enforce,” and plan to qualify their own regulatory ordinance as a referendum for the November ballot.
Gee, it seems like that legal five-foot by five-foot garden for all Californians proposed under 2010’s failed Proposition 19 is looking better and better, huh, Northern California?

"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show.