Don’t grow your own?

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

Sacramento County just banned outdoor marijuana cultivation. I have a garden; what’s going to happen next?

—The Rev. Greenthumb

Last week, Sacramento County Supervisor (and marijuana hater) Roberta MacGlashan introduced two ordinances to ban marijuana growing in the unincorporated area of the county. The outdoor measure passed unanimously, and the indoor ban was tabled so that supervisors could discuss regulations.

This is a shame. Here is a little message for the prohibitionists: Prohibition does not work. People have been growing marijuana in California for decades. According to the representative from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department at the board meeting, it is virtually impossible to even take someone to trial for a medical-marijuana garden, let alone to get a conviction. Proposition 215 allows for medical-marijuana patients to grow their own medicine (Prop. 215 doesn’t actually legalize marijuana, it allows a patient to make an “affirmative defense” so that there are no criminal penalties). They could try to send the case to the feds, but unless the garden is way more than 100 plants, the feds aren’t interested. So now, you have an ordinance that has no teeth. There could be civil penalties, but really this law is mostly unenforceable.

I am incredibly upset with the supervisors, especially MacGlashan, who seems to be the impetus behind every anti-marijuana bill in the county. And Supervisor Phil Serna, who always seems to ask good questions along the lines of, “Can we maybe regulate outdoor growing to, say, six plants or so?” and then votes to ban outdoor grows anyway. Would it kill him to make a token “no” vote every once in a while?

I am also upset with the cannabis growers of unincorporated Sacramento County, because sloppiness and pissing off your neighbors (this ban is a “nuisance” ordinance, not a criminal one) is the best way to get everyone in trouble. Can you maybe take a few steps to minimize odor during the harvest season? Must you and your buddies sleep on the porch next to your guns for the whole month of October? Do you really need 100 plants in your backyard? It seems to me like more than a few folks are disregarding the first rule of living next to other people: Don’t be an ass.

So what now? Can’t fight it in court: California has already ruled that cities and counties can ban marijuana pretty much all they want. The activists up in Shasta County have managed to get together and gather enough signatures to put their ban up to a vote. This was well-played, since not only did these stalwart activists manage to get the ban stopped until after the November election, giving themselves at least one more growing season, they also managed to register more than 3,000 new voters. That’s a big deal.

Until California can come up with comprehensive statewide regulations (ha!), local politics will determine the future. More pro-marijuana votes can only help the movement. Can the growers and activists in Sacramento County gather enough signatures to put a ban up to a vote? I suppose we are about to find out.