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April 21, 2014
Editorial: State must act to regulate marijuana

MC_POTFARM_04.JPG(April 21 - By the Editorial Board)

With the Legislature unable to seriously regulate marijuana, Sacramento County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan is proposing flat bans on cultivation of the weed indoors and outdoors.

MacGlashan will offer two separate ordinances at today's Board of Supervisors hearing. They're understandable, if extreme, reactions to the Legislature's annual failure. They deserve serious consideration and raise significant issues.

Whatever you think of marijuana, voters in 1996 approved its use for medicinal purposes. No one should quibble if an individual grows a few plants for personal use.

Based on polls, California voters may one day soon follow the lead of Colorado and Washington state by legalizing marijuana.

What's clear is that Californians almost certainly never will return to a ban. What's also clear is that the medical marijuana industry is hardly what voters thought they were approving when it was pitched to the electorate as a palliative for people with AIDS, glaucoma, cancer and a few other diseases.

Outdoor cultivation can be a public nuisance at a minimum, and a crime magnet and an environmental scourge in the extreme. No rightthinking person should support taking water from fish, people and farms to water a weed, especially in a drought.

Sacramento County Scott Jones and code enforcers responded to 180 locations last year, removing 13,500 plants, MacGlashan says. At an average of 75 plants per site, that's hardly an amount being used for a single ill individual.

The Sacramento Area Intelligence Narcotics Taskforce, investigating cases for criminal prosecution, removed 44,263 plants from 35 locations, the supervisors says. District Attorney Jan Scully has spending homicide cases stemming from marijuana thefts or attempted thefts.

California courts have held that cities and counties have the authority to ban marijuana cultivation. Fresno County has banned cultivation. The cities of Sacramento, Elk Grove and West Sacramento ban outdoor cultivation, a reasonable step.

Mendocino County authorizes 25 plants, although clearly that regulation is regularly ignored. Some localities allow limited indoor cultivation, which reasonable.

In Humboldt County, the city of Arcata, heavily impacted by the marijuana industry, permits indoor cultivation but limits it to no more than 50 square feet, and a description of chemicals used.

On Monday, legislation by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, to overhaul marijuana regulation cleared the Senate Business and Professions Committee. Backed by California police chiefs, Senate Bill 1226 seeks to limit marijuana to the truly sick.

Today, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, will push his version of regulation. His Assembly Bill 1894, which will be heard in Assembly Public Safety Committee, would authorize a unit within the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to regulate marijuana.

By the end of the year, Correa, Ammiano and the rest of the Legislature ought come together on a compromise. Either that, or cities and counties will be left to sort out their positions. That's an imperfect solution, but also perfectly understandable.