Dueling measures

Two medi-pot cultivation items bring confusion to the ballot

When it comes to Measures A and B, confusion reigns supreme. That’s because they’re both related to the growing of medical marijuana, and proponents of each side are using similar slogans: Yes on A, No on B vs. No on A, Yes on B.

First, let’s go back in time for context. Since 2011, the Butte County Board of Supervisors has been working on drafting an ordinance regulating the cultivation of medical marijuana. After years of discussion, including the creation of a task force of sorts with representatives from both sides of the issue, the board finally approved an ordinance in early 2013. It didn’t take long, however, for amendments to be proposed. The first round was approved last December, and more came early this year (this final document is now Measure A).

Still, not everyone was happy. Medical marijuana proponents gathered sufficient signatures to stop that second round of amendments—which, most significantly, limited garden size—and crafted their own ordinance (Measure B).

“Because the county completely banned dispensaries, we need a provision for collectives,” said Robert MacKenzie, a land-use attorney backing Measure B. “It’s a patient-access issue. We need to have this much of it available.”

Folks on the other side of the fence argue that the amount of growing—particularly in the foothills—far exceeds the local need and instead people are making profits and sending their yield out of the county and even out of the state.

“Where does a land-use issue go from a compassionate provision for medical needs into a business?” posed Supervisor Doug Teeter, a Measure A supporter whose district includes Paradise, Magalia and the foothills to the north.

Both sides have their merits. To MacKenzie’s point about a lack of dispensaries in Butte County, Teeter agrees that that would solve a major problem when it comes to cultivation, eliminating the patient-access issue and making it easier to argue for regulating large collective gardens. To Teeter’s contention that people are growing for profit in the foothills, MacKenzie also agrees, but said he blames those problems on federal policy, which maintains that marijuana is a dangerous illegal drug and fuels the for-profit business.

The current ordinance limits the size of gardens based on number of plants—not on the square footage of the gardens—maxing out at 99 (on lots 40 acres or larger). It requires complaints come from a nearby neighbor and that they not be anonymous (though it stipulates that the identity be kept secret from those complained about).

Measure A limits the size of marijuana gardens to a maximum of 150 square feet—just 50 square feet on lots 5 acres or smaller. It increases the setbacks based on the size of the lot—lots 5-10 acres in size would have to set gardens back 75 feet rather than 50; and lots bigger than 10 feet would require a 150-foot setback, versus the current 75. It allows any person to complain about a garden, and to do so anonymously.

Measure B is essentially the ordinance currently in place, but with a provision that it not be amended except by a public vote.

Despite the campaign ads advocating one measure over the other, voters have no obligation to choose either, or not to choose both. A “no” vote on both would result in the county reverting to the current ordinance. A “yes” on both would end in whichever gets the most votes taking precedence.

What makes this issue slightly more confusing is that Paradise and Chico already have growing ordinances limiting gardens to 50 square feet.

“People in Chico and Paradise will be voting on something that doesn’t affect them. It’s going to affect the rural areas,” Teeter explained.