Medical Marijuana Ordinance Upheld

Sonoma County's lenient stance on marijuana leads to more crime and drug use, especially among teens, say critics. Yet many others defend the status quo and say reducing limits will only hurt patients


An attempt to curb marijuana-related crime by reducing the amount card-carrying patients can possess and grow was squashed Tuesday.

Opponents called the effort to repeal Sonoma's 2006 guidelines for medical marijuana "ill-informed" and a "sneaky attempt to bypass democracy" criticizing the lack of stakeholder involvement.

The proposal would have modified the County Medical Marijuana Possession and Cultivation Guidelines to more restrictive state Health and Safety Code levels.

The state standard allows a patient or caregiver to possess no more than 8 ounces of dried marijuana and grow no more than six mature or 12 immature plants per patient. Sonoma County's guidelines allow a patient or caregiver to possess 3 pounds and grow up to 99 plants within 100 square feet.

The suggestion to reduce the amount of medical marijuana came from 1st District's Valerie Brown and Board chair Shirley Zane, which some criticized as being out of touch with reality.

But Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas and District Attorney Jill Ravich said that marijuana-related arrests and crime have risen since 2006, including simple assaults and assaults with deadly weapons, as well as homicides.

“If you look at a map of crime, it peaks in Sonoma County versus the rest of North Bay," Freitas said.

"It brings people to Sonoma County, this idea of permissiveness...the perception…And the idea is to change the perception of Sonoma County to the outside world," District Attorney Jill Ravitch said.

Supervisor Brown pointed out that many rentals are used for marijuana grows and use illegal electrical hookups, adding that there was a very large illegal grow in her district.

“The fire chief who went out there said the potential for fire was huge in every aspect of that facility. They had a slash of copies of cards and all said they were growing for patients. We found they were not all identifiable cards.

More than 100 people crowded the supervisor chambers, all opposing the proposed reductions. A group of people was wearing pink “Don’t criminalize patients” stickers.

Zane said she is a former hospital chaplain and said the medical community doesn't understand pain management.

"As someone who has had chronic pain for most of my life, I speak from experience," she told the audience.

"But there are bad actors. We're talking about real violent crime. I did do a raid with the narcotics officers from our Sheriff's Department. And I was shocked to see the amount of weapons, amount of gas, amount of toxic chemicals being poured into our watershed, amount of child endangerment issues."

A staff report indicated Sonoma County teenagers show higher use than state or national averages and that a young age of marijuana use reduces educational achievement.

"This hearing is not an effort to vilify legitimate use or supply of medical marijuana," Zane said. "I support the lifting of the federal and state prohibition. Local governments are forced to deal with these impacts...from the inconsistency."

However, several speakers accused Zane and Brown of circumventing the democratic process.

"I do believe there's been a complete lapse by the county," Supervisor Ernest Carillo said, after expressing concern about the lack of stakeholder involvement.

Many said that reducing access will hurt patients who rely on marijuana while doing nothing to apprehend drug cartels.

"By reducing access, you hurt patients, not criminals," one speaker said.

But Supervisor David Rabbitt said allowing people to possess and grow higher quantities of marijuana has not reduced the crime associated with it, as some had envisioned.

"We do have a problem and we have to address that…It has become part of an underground economy for the North Bay and possibly beyond. My wife is an oncology nurse. If you're dying of a brain tumor, go for it. That's not what this is about. This is about how to police ourselves."

A retired deputy probation officer and cancer survivor told the Board, "The war on drugs has been lost. The only thing that will happen if you bring the number down is that you'll help the criminals."

In the end, the Board of Supervisors voted to eliminate the recommendation for repeal and to ask staff to work with the ad hoc committee to engage stakeholders in a collaborative process.

What do you think? Does marijuana contribute to crime? Or does restricting how much someone can carry and/or grow only reduce access for patients? Share your thoughts below.

Bradford A Morris December 12, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Good. NO Great. You are not 100% sound mind and or body function when using marijuana! There should be a medical clinic where you can go and check out and smoke your fix to reduce your pain right there only. For years people used other legal means to reduce pain. This clinic should be State operated and law enforcement should be there just like a court room has an officer. The feeling of being high from marijuana does lead to other drugs. I have friends who have told me it does and one of them now is dead from upgrading. For example: If you want to shoot a gun you have to go to a shooting range to be legal. You can not just shoot anywhere you want to. So a clinic would be good. No one should be able to grow pot. Only the State regulated companies could. If you need a fix between the time you left and the next day you go back or use other legal type of pain medication. The clinic should be open 24 hours like an ER in a hospital. We need to get control of this before there are more crimes and accidents. Look at all the money and efford it take to stop DUI. Make the laws harder on users who have any marijuana on them.
FlyingTooLow December 12, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Why are not these same claims being levied against prescription drugs? And, with substantiation and accuracy. Why is not 'big pharma' not being prosecuted? In 2009, 26,000 deaths from prescription medicines. Deaths caused by marijuana...not a single one in recorded history. Several years ago, I had surgery on my right shoulder. Pain medication was prescribed..."take one capsule every 4 hours." I took one capsule. I was down for over 20 hours. When I came to, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The next time I felt discomfort, I smoked a small amount of marijuana ...pain gone, no after effects. I threw the pills out. Then I wrote: Shoulda Robbed a Bank My contribution to helping point out just how ludicrous our pot laws truly are. I would be honored by your review.
FlyingTooLow December 12, 2012 at 04:15 PM
I copied the below comment from another website. I think the American veteran who wrote this sums it up very well: "I am a disabled Army Veteran and smoke marijuana strictly for medical purposes. I never smoked before I broke my back in the military and it hasen't been a gateway to anything. I started smoking because of my cauda equina syndrome. I had a herniated disk in my lower back that compressed the nerves at the lower end of my spine (cauda equina nerves). The doctors couldn't prevent permanent damage, so I am left with permanent pain that is so severe that it leads to vomiting on a consistant basis without my medacine (marijuana). The doctors prescribed me morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, oxycotton, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, etc... All of the above named meda... cines made me useless, I hardly knew what was happening around me. On top of that, they didnt help with the pain or the vomiting from the pain. I felt like bugs were crawling under my skin. After complaining about this for a while, friends and family handed me cannabis. I was reluctant at first, due to the stigma that goes along with it. After I gave it a try, I realized that it was far and away a better solution than any of the above named DRUGS. I had none of the issues with cannabis that I had with all those other PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS. I can function and carry on with my life. Marijuana has made me a better person and a far more functional parent and husband."
ron privett December 12, 2012 at 04:40 PM
i hope you're over 70, so your mentality may die out within another decade or so? or maybe educate before you go would be nicer?
Kevin King December 12, 2012 at 06:05 PM
The problem isn't the legalization of pot (necessarily), but the commercial development of it. It's being regulated at the personal level, now it needs to be regulated better at the commercial one. Grow houses should be illegal, pure and simple, and if you plan to sell medical marijuana, you should only be permitted to grow that marijuana on a commercially or agriculturally zoned area. Unfortunately, unless California (or Sonoma) is willing to create some type of local agency similar to the FDA, all of this is moot. We're always going to have these growhouse and black market issues until some broader municipally-backed regulatory body can enter the picture and push some type of zoning laws and regulations onto marijuana growers.
Goofpod December 12, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Talk about unrealistic. 3 pounds per person, 99 plants!? That's enough to feed Casa Grande High School for weeks! Come on, potheads abuse this opportunity every way they can. They're addicts, that herb is the most important thing in their lives. More important than family, jobs, spirituality, relationships. I know, I smoke that weed for 30 years. Now I regret that damage I did to my brain. If you're letimately in pain you deserve a little puff or two, but THREE POUNDS!?! That's dealer level possession. It will be interesting to see how quickly Colorado and Washington fall into chaos and rescind their moronic legislation.
The Fool December 13, 2012 at 06:21 AM
As implied in some other comments, you are allowed three pounds of tobacco, three pounds of high fructose corn syrup, three pounds of GMO anything, three pounds of firearms, three pounds of alcohol, etc. Thank god someone has the sense to finally say what needs to be said: we must not allow three pounds of marijuana. Someone might get high or something. Where the black market comes in is the precise area of confusion at the fringes of legality. All other questions dance around the elephant. Legalize and regulate and 90% of the crime will, by definition, be reduced. Will there still be social ills? Of course. But those social ills come today on top of all the other issues that irk the DA and Brown and Rabbit. Lets at least let those go and get on with the normal issues we have with good old hooch. Or sugar. Or high fructose corn syrup. Or pharmaceuticals. etc. I get so tired of others' bad experiences dictating what I can do in the privacy of my home.
Heidi Archer December 13, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Guns dont kill people, people kill people.
Heidi Archer December 13, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Sonoma County is the best place in the world to grow Medical Marijuana. As anything, you put a good thing in the hand of a criminal and they will abuse it. Also everything in moderation. If smoking pot helps with pain, I say smoke it, or eat it, how ever you need to take it. God made the plant for us to use, not to abuse. Morphine is derived from opium, which is from a poppy. Imagine how many people would die in pain in their last few days of their life if doctors didnt prescribe it. If it was you or your family in pain I think you might have a different perspective on marijuana. Marijuana is a natural way of pain relief. It is less harmful than prescription meds. I am for it 100% Any good thing in the hands of the wrong person can be bad. Such as a gun. Peace and love Jacques Quiescence Day Spa


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