May 26, 2019

Marijuana grows banned: Fresno cannabis advocates face uphill battle to bring issue to voters

Medical marijuana petitioners were at Fresno State on Friday, and plan to be on campus throughout the week, attempting to gather enough signatures to bring the issue of cultivation to voters.

This comes after the Fresno County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to ban all marijuana grows in unincorporated areas during its Jan. 7 meeting. The ordinance makes Fresno County the first in California to outlaw all grows since voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, making medical marijuana legal.

Assembly Bill 2650, adopted in 2011, allows cities and counties to restrict the location or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, establishment or providers.

The supervisors’ ordinance cites the Fresno County Sheriff’s assessment that, “Medical marijuana grows attract crime and associated violence. They also result in loitering, increased traffic, noise and loss of trade for other businesses located nearby.”

The sheriff’s office also said that the elimination of marijuana grows will save them $307,000 annually in enforcement.

Board Chairman Andreas Borgeas said that the ordinance still allows people to get medical marijuana from other sources if they have proper documentation.

Attempting to stop the county’s enforcement of the new law, medical marijuana advocates must procure 201,300 valid signatures on their petition by Feb. 5. If they are successful, the issue will either be dropped by the supervisors or put to a vote of Fresno County residents.

Though petitioners do not currently have an official count of the number of signatures they have gathered, by their own admission, they are fighting an uphill battle.

“I can tell you it’s a very long shot. We knew that going in,” said Michael Green, a cannabis advocate with the petitioners involved in the campaign.

One of the petition drive’s main weaknesses is that Fresno County has little political organization in place behind medicinal marijuana to mobilize.

“It’s just a very short timeline, and there isn’t a very well-organized or established medical marijuana community in Fresno because they’ve been beaten down pretty bad for several years,” Green said.

Green said the ordinance would hurt legal medical marijuana consumers more though.

“The medical cannabis patient who follows state law and does everything right to obtain their medicine, they can’t do it without growing a plant or going to a place where that plant has been grown by someone else,” he said.

Joe Elford, a San Francisco attorney, has filed a petition with the California Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn a recent Third District Appellate Court ruling which allowed a similar ban in the city of Live Oak.

In a statement from the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Elford said, “If you ban dispensaries and you ban cultivation, you’re ripping the heart out of California’s medical marijuana laws.”

The incorporated areas of Fresno and Clovis will be unaffected by the supervisors’ vote as it only affects the unincorporated areas. In those cities medical marijuana cultivation is still legal with the proper permits as long as it is indoors or in a greenhouse.


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