Sacramento City Council outlaws outdoor cultivation of medicinal pot in Sacramento neighborhoods

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3B

Following a statewide trend, the Sacramento City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday night outlawing the outdoor cultivation of medicinal marijuana in residential neighborhoods.

After nearly an hour of testimony, the council followed through on a vote last month signaling its intent to join Elk Grove and other cities around California that are placing tighter restrictions on marijuana cultivation. The council voted 6-2 to enact the ban.

Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, the chief proponent of the ban, said outdoor cultivation had led to crime and fear in her northern Sacramento district.

"I think that people have a right to a quality of life," she said.

Councilman Kevin McCarty added, "The current situation is not working in our neighborhoods."

But Councilmen Steve Cohn and Jay Schenirer – who voted against the ordinance – urged the council to delay adopting the law until it was more thoroughly vetted.

"I think we're on the wrong side of history on this one," Cohn said.

"We're better than this. We can do it in a measured way that doesn't take away rights from medical patients."

Schenirer asked city staff to work with medical marijuana advocates on an ordinance that is "a little bit more balanced" and does not punish responsible growers.

Officials argued that outdoor pot crops – and the odor they emit – have created a public nuisance in some parts of the city.

What's more, crops have led to burglaries and, in some cases, violence, according to police.

But advocates for medicinal marijuana patients argued that it would be difficult for many patients to find room in their homes to grow marijuana or afford greenhouses if the outdoor ban was passed.

Ryan Landers, a prominent medical marijuana advocate who helped craft the state law that made the medicinal use of the drug legal, described the change as "cruel" and in violation of state law.

"You don't have the right to do this to the patients," he said.

Patient rights advocate Lynette Davies said other segments of everyday life – from backyard chickens now legal in the city to burger joints – emit fumes but are accepted.

"We can still make this work," she said.

Sheedy, who is stepping down from her seat next month, has said large outdoor crops in her district have become drains on public safety and quality of life. In some cases, crops as large as 99 plants have been found in the area, she said.

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