When Elk Grove City Council members last September initially discussed a medical marijuana ordinance they ultimately approved on Feb. 8, the discussion was a mix of prohibiting growth in the city while following state law.
“I don’t like it. I don’t want it. I don’t want it to grow in a house, outside the garage, smoke it, smell it, sit on it,” Council Member Sophia Scherman said at the Sept. 28 meeting. “I don’t care. I don’t want it in our city.”
At that same meeting, Council Member Gary Davis said the city should have an ordinance that restricts growing medical marijuana for cardholders but still follows state law.
“I say that we strive to have the strictest, most burdensome policy in California,” Davis said.
On Feb. 8, when council members voted 3-2 to allow growth inside a residence or in a secured outbuilding in the rear yard of a residential property, the discussion was more of the same.
“There is no way tonight, tomorrow, or the next day that I will vote for any ordinance that will allow any type of cultivation of pot in the city of Elk Grove,” Scherman said. “I may be the sole naysayer here, but it doesn’t matter. I know I cannot support any ordinance that will support marijuana in our town.”
Scherman and Council Member Steve Detrick, who also preferred an outright ban on cultivation in the city, voted against the proposed ordinance, as he was only willing to permit cultivation in a secured outbuilding.
The ordinance will go into effect 30 days after a second reading is likely approved at the Feb. 22 council meeting.
“I appreciate the aggressive approach that we’ve taken here. I don’t support us weakening this approach at all,” said Davis, who said he supports a ban but recognizes state law allows cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes. “If we’re known as being tough on drugs, good.”
The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (CUA) allows ill Californians who obtain a physician’s approval to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The CUA says medicinal marijuana could provide relief to people suffering from cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, or migraine.
Elk Grove’s ordinance prohibits cultivation within 1,000 feet of a school, childcare center, or a public park.
A qualified patient or primary caregiver must live at the property where the medical marijuana is being grown. If that person is a tenant, the homeowner must provide written approval.
The city’s building official must approve the required ventilation and filtration system. That official or the police chief must approve a required mechanical or electronic security system.
Minors under 18 years of age must not be able to access the cultivation areas.
Indoors, the cultivation area may be no larger than 50 square feet. Cultivation is not allowed on carpeted surfaces or in the kitchen, bathrooms, or bedrooms that are primarily for sleeping.
Outside, the fully enclosed outbuilding may be no larger than 120 square feet in size, and a valid building permit issued by the building official is required.
The structure must be located in the rear yard of a residence and set back at least 10 feet from any property line. A solid fence at least six feet high must enclose the yard.
Interim City Attorney Jon Hobbs told the council that other cities have considered banning cultivation, even for medicinal purposes, but that the California Supreme Court should make a final decision on the matter in the next 18 months.
Hobbs said it is not clear that the city would prevail if it opted for a ban on growth, but the ordinance is restrictive while in compliance with the CUA.
“This gives the city an additional tool to enforce state law and stop illegal growing,” said Hobbs, who made a presentation on medicinal marijuana at the League of California Cities Annual Conference last September, just a week before the council directed staff to craft an ordinance.
Hobbs also told the council the ordinance “is designed to be a fairly stringent ordinance so that the city has the ability to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of its residents without taking the more aggressive approach of attempting to ban outright.”