After hearing patient testimony and legal counsel by activists, Fresno county BOS made a bold move and banned indoor cultivation of medical marijuana yesterday January 7, 2014. What makes this so bold is that they have already banned outdoor cultivation and dispensaries leaving sick people with no safe and affordable access to their medicine of choice.
In 1996 California voters overwhelmingly approved Prop 215 which was further reinforced by SB420. SB420 or the MMP provides that individual patients may maintain six mature or twelve immature plants for their personal medical needs. In addition, the MMP expressly authorizes localities to enact guidelines that are higher – but not lower – than the state’s six plant limit.
One argument the BOS heard was by Sherrif Mims (who was not personally there) who estimates that enforcement costs the county $300K+ a year. So the solution they are offering is that anyone growing more than two plants will face fines of $1000 per plant and then $100 per plant per day that aren't immediately destroyed. Allowing two plants is off the record. On the record is zero tolerance. What's not being factored in is the cost of litigation which could potentially be much higher.
Joe Elford, the Chief Council for Americans for Safe Access, has filed a petition to Review with the California State Supreme Court regarding another citiy's ban. The petition argues that local governments are pre-empted by state law from banning cultivation by qualified medical marijuana patients, insofar as California’s Compassionate Use Act (Prop 215) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMP, aka SB 420) explicitly authorize such cultivation.
The ban that the Fresno County BOS voted on yesterday is unconstitutional. And it's not timely or popular. There is a more rational approach to the problems Fresno county is facing with medical marijuana.
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Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.