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Tuolumne County Passes Local Medical Marijuana Grow Rules

Sonora, CA — A burst of applause filled the supervisors chambers shortly after 3 p.m. as Tuolumne County instituted local rules for growing medical pot.

The action followed well over an hour’s worth of public comments, many from medical cannabis patients and growers speaking in favor of the recommendations by the planning commission that came out of its Jan. 20 meeting, which, as previously reported here, allowed for somewhat more expanded grows for qualified patients and caregivers.

Most who opined at the podium against the added allowance came from the Lake Don Pedro area. All shared that illegal grows in their neighborhoods tied to cartel connections have created public safety issues and enforcement concerns; however, each of the speakers still expressed compassion and support for legitimate medical marijuana patients’ right to their medicine. Notably, County Health Officer Dr. Liza Ortiz, who did not attend last week’s planning commission public hearing, came out emphatically against allowing for any private grows, primarily due to a lack of medical evidence supporting marijuana’s purported wide ranging benefits, also pointing out the elevated state of drug addiction issues currently existing within the county population. Supervisor Randy Hanvelt echoed her concerns and abstained from voting.

Ahead of motioning for the vote, Board Chair Karl Rodefer, who also abstained from the matter, thanked the audience that filled nearly two-thirds of the chambers, both for their input and respectful demeanor. It subsequently took several attempts for the remaining supervisors to formulate and finally pass a version of the ordinance that won a three-member majority vote.

The new local rules are as follows: one qualified medical cannabis patient or primary caregiver can grow up to 12 plants on a parcel outdoors (two such persons may grow up to 24 plants on one parcel) with a set back of at least 25 feet from the property line. Such persons have the alternative of cultivating the same number of plants indoors in one area that is no larger than 50 square contiguous feet per parcel. To enable code enforcement, the board additionally instructed staff to include a full-time compliance officer within the next budget cycle. Supervisors Evan Royce and Sherri Brennan both noted that the stakeholder advisory committee now being formulated will have the opportunity to suggest improvements in June, when the board revisits the issue.

Following the vote, the supervisors unanimously approved related code enforcement measures for violations of the local grow laws; specifically elevating infractions to automatically elicit a Notice and Order, requiring abatement within ten days and setting a ten-day appeal time limit for such an order.