Paradise Town Council bans cultivation of medical cannabis, limits deliveries
Immediately before the Paradise Town Council voted 5-0 to ban cultivation and restrict deliveries of medical marijuana on Tuesday (Jan. 12), Mayor Jody Jones took a moment to clear the air. The new ordinance, she said, won’t prohibit residents from using cannabis medicinally.
As an analogy, Jones likened the law to a municipal code that disallows certain livestock within Paradise town limits: “You can’t raise pigs in your backyard; you can still eat bacon,” she said.
One might observe that, unlike bacon, medical marijuana isn’t sold in stores—not in Paradise. Pot dispensaries are illegal under existing law. And that’s why the public hearing on the new ordinance packed Paradise Town Hall past capacity: For medicinal users who are home-bound by illness, injury or disability, growing weed or having it delivered are the only ways to get it.
Take Paradise resident Susan Scott, 74, who lives with fibromyalgia and cancer. Currently, cannabis oil capsules are delivered to her door, Scott said, and she can’t sleep without ingesting them at night.
“If I get to the point where I can’t drive … I just want you to really consider that,” she said. Her voice shook with emotion. “It’s really important that you don’t get rid of the delivery part.”
The ordinance’s impetus is twofold, according to a staff report presented by Town Manager Lauren Gill. For one, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a package of bills—Assembly Bills 266 and 243 and Senate Bill 643—which comprise the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, a statewide framework for controls on the cultivation, sale and delivery of medical marijuana. The bills give local governments the ability to regulate or prohibit those activities independently, but set a deadline to do so by March 1.
“If we have regulations in place, we have the option of removing or relaxing them in the future,” Gill said. “However, if we do not have regulations in place, we are stuck without the opportunity to have any say in regulating [medical marijuana].” Similar laws are being considered by dozens of municipalities throughout California, she added. (In Butte County, Oroville’s City Council voted to ban processing and delivery of medical marijuana on Jan. 5, and the Biggs City Council voted to ban cultivation and delivery on Jan. 12. The Board of Supervisors is poised to take up the issue of delivery in the coming weeks.)
Town staff also considered quality-of-life issues in Paradise. Community Development Director Craig Baker said that many residents on the Ridge have complained of nuisances related to pot grows—namely, smelly plants, decreased property values, increased foot and vehicle traffic and criminal activity.
The complaints aren’t limited to the large, illegal, for-profit grows that exceed the maximum garden size of 50 square feet currently allowed, Baker said. An outright ban would also simplify things in terms of code enforcement, he added. Under the new ordinance, a grow of any size would be illegal. Violating the law would be a civil matter punishable by citations and fines, rather than a criminal offense, he explained.
The ordinance cleared its first hurdle on Dec. 21, when the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend its approval. As presented on Tuesday night, the ordinance would have banned deliveries of medicinal cannabis, as well.
After hearing the pleas of patients, however, Councilman Steve “Woody” Culleton proposed a compromise allowing “primary caregivers” to personally deliver cannabis to patients. Fellow Councilman John Rawlings expressed misgivings about the new ordinance, but when it came to a vote, there was no opposition.
Following the meeting, Town Clerk Joanna Gutierrez told the CN&R the ordinance will come before the Town Council for a final reading during its next meeting, on Jan. 25, and will go into effect 30 days later.