El Dorado supervisors nip medical marijuana registry in the bud
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors initiated changes to the county’s outdoor medical marijuana policies Oct. 24 but opted out of the controversial proposal that would have required those growing marijuana for medicinal purposes to register.
Several speakers spoke against staff’s recommendation for a registry, calling it an undue burden on medical marijuana users and a violation of their 5th Amendment rights as marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
A registry will do “little to nothing” to prevent illegal grows, said Mitch Fadel with the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis. He also noted that any database could be compromised.
Bobby Eisenberg with Cool Consultations, a medical cannabis center in Cool, said he spoke with many local medical marijuana users and “100 percent will not comply with this request.”
“Registration of patients is a deterrent for compliance,” Eisenberg told the board.
Bullet points in staff’s presentation note a registry:
Allows county to know the individuals who are cultivating under Ordinance 5000 and striving to be in compliance.
Allows county to quickly differentiate between legitimate and illegal grows when complaints are received.
Prevents fraudulent use of a medical cannabis identification card at multiple addresses.
Registrant will receive packet with regulations and enforcement procedures and receipt of packet will be confirmed.
Information received through registration will be received in confidence and used only for purposes of administering enforcement or as otherwise required by law.
District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl, after hearing public comment, said he’d like to see the county use incentives to get those growing medical marijuana in compliance with the county ordinance. He received applause when he questioned why the county would consider penalizing someone who follows all the rules but doesn’t register.
“I hate the idea of forcing everybody to register,” Hidahl said.
District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel and District 4 Supervisor Michael Ranalli, who also sit on the county’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, argued in favor of the registry.
But public concern and the board majority won and the first reading of Code Enforcement ordinance revisions was approved, 3-2, without the registry. Supervisors Hidahl, Shiva Frentzen and Ranalli voting in favor; Novasel and Brian Veerkamp against.
Ranalli said a registry would reduce the burden on law enforcement/code enforcement because staff would know if a complaint comes in whether the grow in question is legal.
It could also cut down on the instances in which one person’s medical marijuana card is used to justify more than one marijuana grow — a problem noted by law enforcement. Sheriff’ John D’Agostini, who told the board he’d prefer a grow ban, said his staff will do “everything we can to work with Code Enforcement and work with the board to make this work.”
“But I don’t like it,” the sheriff added.
What will change? If the board gives its final approval on Nov. 7, the following changes, as outlined in the staff presentation, will be made:
Update history to reflect current state of the law and replace “marijuana” with “cannabis.”
Update zoning designations (name) to reflect current zones in County General Plan and definitions to be consistent with current state law.
In response to complaints, make screening requirement clearer in that “no part of a plant” can be seen. Include a preference for cultivation in greenhouses or hoop houses.
In response to complaints, add an objective means of measuring odor and require that cultivation satisfy this objective standard. Mitigation measures for odor may include use of a greenhouse with filtration or hoop house, growing a low odor strain cannabis, reducing the number of plants, increasing the setback, etc.
Require that drying, curing, processing and storing of cannabis be in a greenhouse, hoop house, shed, garage, residence or other fully enclosed structure.
Ensuring compliance with these civil policies will fall on Code Enforcement staff. If violators don’t comply within 72 hours of receiving notice of said violations, they must pay hefty fines and a notice to abate will be issued, giving county staff the ability to remove the plants.
Fines are outlined as:
If violation not corrected after 72 hours, fine is $500 per day, per plant in violation.
Once to Notice to Abate is issued, fine increases to $1,000 per day, per plant in violation.
Second violation in same 12-month period results in $2,500 fine per day, per plant in violation.
Third violation in same 12-month period results in $5,000 fine per day, per plant in violation.