Supervisors see the light

After two failures they’re letting citizens draft a medi-pot ordinance

It took a long time—more than a year—but the Butte County Board of Supervisors finally has seen the light. After passing a medical-marijuana ordinance that voters soundly rejected in June, and then coming up with an even worse proposal that ran into a firestorm of criticism during a public hearing Tuesday (Aug. 28), the supervisors finally got the message.

Heretofore they’d tried to regulate medical-marijuana cultivation according to their own lights, which shone only dimly on the notion of pot cultivation. Their first ordinance was overly bureaucratic and had the fundamental flaw of forbidding anyone from growing plants on a parcel smaller than a half-acre. Their second ordinance, modeled on one in Kings County, went to the other side, allowing cultivation on any size parcel, but requiring that it be done inside a secure, ventilated, county-approved structure.

As speakers told the supervisors in no uncertain terms Tuesday (see our report on page 9), this was prohibitively expensive for both grower and county. The county would have had to beef up its code enforcement at a cost of about $1 million a year.

The ordinance was also, as District Attorney Mike Ramsey told the board, unconstitutional because it criminalized medi-pot cultivation, which is allowed under Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

Faced with the reality that both of the ordinances they’d generated were duds, the supervisors finally did what numerous people had been urging them to do for a long time: They decided to set up an ad-hoc committee of representative citizens and county officials to work together and come up with an ordinance that met, as much as possible, the needs of everyone.

Better late than never. Still, had the board taken this tack from the beginning, it could have saved the $50,000 in taxpayers’ money it cost to put the referendum on the June ballot.

Regardless of how you feel about medical marijuana, you have to acknowledge that it’s always good when citizens challenge their government to do better. That’s what happened here, and it was indeed good.