Sacramento County to limit indoor marijuana growth

Sacramento County supervisors are expected Tuesday to limit the indoor growth of marijuana to nine plants per house in unincorporated areas.

The indoor restriction comes nearly two months after the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to ban outdoor marijuana growth, joining a number of other California cities and counties that have targeted cultivation in response to safety and nuisance complaints. Sheriff Scott Jones said earlier this year a profusion of marijuana grows have led to burglaries and, in some cases, fatal shootings.

Supervisors said a separate indoor rule that allows for limited growth acknowledges the need for patients to provide for their own needs without disturbing other county residents. The new ordinance allows for indoor growth of nine plants only in single-family detached homes. It also specifies that plants must be concealed from public view.

Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan introduced the restrictions earlier this year, citing complaints from residents.

Some supervisors said they wanted to strike a balance between federal and state marijuana laws.

“We still hang in this very odd limbo between what the compassionate-use law says and what federal law says,” Supervisor Phil Serna said.

But medical marijuana advocates said nine plants won’t meet the needs of the sickest patients.

Bob Bowerman, president of the Sacramento chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the nine-plant limit would allow patients to have an ounce a month, at best. Bowerman said he knows people who need an ounce or two a week.

The amount of marijuana needed for medical purposes depends on the illness and how it’s ingested – smoked versus eaten. When pot is put into food or oil, it requires greater quantities, he said. NORML and other advocates had asked supervisors to allow 18 plants.

Chris Pahule of the county’s Community Development Department said the limit was not designed to meet the needs of all medical marijuana patients. Instead, it was designed with law enforcement officials to create an enforceable law.

He said staff research found that each plant could produce 1 to 4 ounces, far more than what Bowerman says.

On May 28, during the board’s second discussion of growth restrictions, supervisors scheduled the proposed indoor restriction for Tuesday’s consent agenda. That means the board doesn’t plan to discuss the measure further and expects to approve it.

Cities in Sacramento County restrict indoor growth to specific square-footage limits rather than plant numbers. Those range from 25 square feet in Rancho Cordova to 400 square feet in Sacramento, according to county officials.

Local governments have moved to regulate growth after a state court ruling in November upheld their ability to ban cultivation despite the state’s 1996 initiative legalizing marijuana for medical use.

The ruling by the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal, upholding a ban in the city of Live Oak, paved the way for similar ordinances across California. Most bans have focused on outdoor cultivation, while Fresno County has gone the furthest by prohibiting outdoor and indoor medical marijuana grows, according to the California chapter of NORML.

The county’s ban on outdoor pot gardens is already in effect, while the indoor restrictions won’t go into place until mid-July.

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