Medical marijuana patients in Fresno County, Calif. are not happy with a recent decision by the county's board of supervisors. They banned all marijuana cultivation in the county's unincorporated areas with a unanimous 5-0 vote on Tuesday.
The public nuisance ordinance will take effect next month, and will make Fresno County the first county to ban cultivation since medical marijuana was legalized in 1996 with Proposition 215. It will be upheld with fines of $1,000 per plant and an additional $100 per day for each plant that is not removed.
Advocates say they are being forced to travel long distance to buy their medicine and believe the Compassionate Use Act should protect them from these types of ordinances. The act, which was a part of Prop 215, is supposed to ensure that patients and their primary caregivers are not subject to prosecution or sanction.
Despite patient complaints, Sheriff Margaret Mims told the Fresno Bee that the ban can't come soon enough. Last year there were 20 violent incidents involving grow areas, and extra enforcement costs an estimated $307,000 per year.
"Had this not gotten out of control it may not have resulted in an ordinance like this," she continued.
But even though the ordinance passed, there is still time for an appeal.
"Fresno County is now inviting a legal case against them," MMJ attorney Joe Elford told the Bee. "It's hasty action that could end up costing taxpayers money."
The county had originally planned to model its ordinance on one from Kern County, which limits patients to 12 plants, but decided to model the City of Live Oak instead. Live Oak has had an ordinance banning cultivation since 2011, and it has stood up to an appeal, so it would seem like a solid choice. Except there was an appeal filed by Elford and supported by Cal NORML against the city in late November declaring that the CUA and MMP grant patients the right to cultivate medical marijuana.
In defense Board Chairman Borgeas said that the ordinance does not prohibit patients from getting marijuana elsewhere.
Elford will reportedly be filing an appeal with the county anyway.