Supervisors to Consider Marijuana Policy Changes

A variety of proposed medical marijuana policy changes will be brought to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that range from a permanent ban on new dispensaries and cultivation sites to reducing the number of plants an individual can grow.

The proposed policy changes will be presented at 1:30 p.m. on October 22 during a “Marijuana Study Session” at the Board Chambers, located at 2800 W. Burrel Ave. in Visalia.

The study session is in response to a number of State Appellate Court decisions this year that provide clarification of State law regarding the ability of local governments to regulate or ban marijuana activity. For example, in May 2013 the State Appellate Court affirmed the right of cities’ and counties’ powers to regulate and ban medical marijuana operations. (City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness Center, Inc.)

Board of Supervisors Chairman Pete Vander Poel said reviewing and strengthening local medical marijuana policy can be an important tool to combating illegal grow sites.

“Illegal medical marijuana grow sites pose a tremendous threat to the safety and well-being of Tulare County’s residents,” Chairman Vander Poel said. “The Board will ensure that our policies provide ample opportunity for County staff to continue to eradicate illegal marijuana.”
 
Current Ordinances

Currently, there is a moratorium, or ban, on the opening of any new storefront, mobile dispensary, or collective grow sites. In addition, individual legal grow sites can cultivate up to 99 plants, per the State’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Under Tulare County’s ordinance, legal grow sites require marijuana to be grown within a secure, locked, and fully enclosed structure and located in proper zoning.

Enforcement

Tulare County’s Resource Management Agency (RMA), Sheriff’s Department, and County Counsel are the main agencies responsible for identifying, eradicating, and enforcing medical marijuana ordinance code issues.

According to RMA, more than 520 illegal medical marijuana sites have been identified since January 30, 2012. Property owners are provided abatement notices after identification. After abatement notices have been served, approximately 84 percent of property owners have abated illegal medical marijuana from their property.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, more than 220,000 plants have been eradicated to date in 2013 compared to a total of 200,000 plants in 2012. During site visits in 2013, the Sheriff’s Department has made 92 arrests and has seized 234 weapons and $524,374 in assets. In 2012, the Sheriff’s Department made 265 arrests and seized 140 weapons and $63,741 in assets.