West Sac may ban growing of medical marijuana in backyards


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

West Sacramento officials are considering a 45-day “urgency ordinance” banning the cultivation of marijuana in outdoor yards. The move comes while various courts are sorting out some of the issues about marijuana growing and the drug’s use in California.

State voters approved a proposition allowing the use of medical marijuana. Federal law still prohibits it.

Currently, city police “are not going after (growers) as long as they comply with the state,” said Charline Hamilton, West Sacramento Community Development Director.

That means that those with evidence of medical need may grow enough of the plant for personal consumption (enough for one or two people), and they can grow it outdoors. Marijuana dispensaries – including places growing enough marijuana for three or more people – are still prohibited in the city.

[adrotate group=”7″]   But outdoor growing has led to new crime (such as people burglarizing the yards and homes of growers) as well as to complaints by neighbors about the “skunky” smell of the plant.

“The complaints we’ve received are mostly nuisance-related,” said Hamilton. “When it’s cultivated outdoors during certain times of the year, the smell can be strong.”

The proposed 45-day moratorium would ban outdoor growing, but still permit indoor cultivation.

A staff report for the city council gave some statistics on complaints since California softened its stance on marijuana growing and medical use.

The report said that “calls for service and crimes (plant theft, residential burglaries) related to cultivation of marijuana have doubled since last year.”

In 2012, there were 25 “cultivation related calls for service” and five “cultivation crime-related” calls – and possibly other calls made to the Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team.

Local growers have not yet mobilized to speak up for the right to grow outdoors, said Hamilton.

The matter returns to the city council on Dec. 5.

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