Medical Marijuana Patients File Lawsuit Against Yuba County


420 Magazine

A coalition of medical marijuana patients, caregivers and collectives has filed a lawsuit against Yuba County, California, to stop implementation of Ordinance 1518, which declares most medicinal cannabis cultivation to be a “public nuisance.”

Yuba County Supervisors on Tuesday formally suspended an ad hoc committee formed to discuss the issue with growers, signaling that the discussion is now moving from board rooms to court rooms, reports Ben van der Meer at Yuba Appeal-Democrat.

The coalition submitted amendments to Ordinance 1518 that they said would have given Yuba County the necessary tools to go after illegitimate marijuana growers and still protect safe access for medicinal cannabis patients in the county.

According to the group, these amendments would have saved the county the expense of litigation, but county officials refused to adopt them, forcing the patients into court to protect their safe access.
The plaintiffs said they filed for a temporary injunction on Tuesday in Yuba County Superior Court to prevent the ordinance from being enforced. Supervisors announced they had voted 5-0 in their closed session to refer the lawsuit to outside counsel.
The lawsuit seeks a declaration by the court that Ordinance 1518, which went into effect on June 1, is invalid and unconstitutional, as well as an injunction against enforcement of the invalid ordinance.
“California courts have consistently struck down state and county laws that prevent safe access, unreasonably burden qualified patients or conflict with voter-initiated Prop 215, and we expect the same in this case,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Jeffrey Lake.
The plaintiffs are Yuba County Growers Association, Sam McConnell, Yuba Patient Collective, Lew Neal, The Old Crow Farm Collective, Kathie Thelen, and Déjá Vu Collective.
“We understand the need for the ordinance,” said Nate Bradley, a Sacramento consultant working with the medical marijuana patient coalition. “It’s kind of at the point where they ignored the amendments we gave to them.”
“I take care of numerous disabled people including many veterans and seniors without getting one complaint,” said plaintiff Kathy Thelen. “Unless you’re in a helicopter, you won’t see my garden. But as the ordinance is currently written, I won’t be able to provide for any of my members, and there’s nowhere else for them to get their medicine.”
“The ordinance is burdensome and restrictive for organic cultivation,” said Lew Neal, a retired court reporter. “My garden needs more spacing than they’re offering. Making medicine requires a fairer quantity of herb than the spacing allows in this ordinance.”
“If someone is cultivating marijuana in full compliance with state law and has not generated a complaint, then they shouldn’t be forced to cut their plants down,” said Sam McConnell, president of the Yuba County Growers Association.
The Plaintiffs argue that Ordinance 1518 is preempted by Proposition 215 and SB 420 and violates California medical marijuana case law because:
(1) it effectively prohibits the establishment and operation of collective or cooperative cultivation projects within the unincorporated areas of the County;
(2) in adopting it, the County intended to limit the amount of medical cannabis without regard to the personal medical needs of patients and in so doing it substituted its judgment for the professional medical judgment of each qualified patient’s physician;
(3) it set unreasonable limits on the amount of medical cannabis that can be cultivated for the patient’s personal medical use and by collectives for their members’ medical use;
(4) it imposes unreasonably difficult physical and financial burdens on those seeking to cultivate medical marijuana for personal or collective use;
(5) it constitutes a taking of vested property rights without just compensation;
(6) it violates Constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures by allowing Enforcement Officers to enter upon parcels without a search warrant and without probable cause; and
(7) it violates California environmental laws, the California Due Process Clause, the California Equal Protection Clause and the federal Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause, because there is no rational basis for the ordinance, and the ordinance discriminates without rational basis between those who choose medical marijuana as their medicine and those who choose other forms of medicine.