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Public outcry pushes tighter marijuana rules in Butte County

Published On: Jan 16 2014 08:06:34 AM CST   Updated On: Jan 16 2014 08:23:19 AM CST
CHICO, Calif. -

Medical marijuana rules could be getting stricter for growers in Butte County.  On Tuesday the board of supervisors took one step closer to limiting grow sizes for properties.

Under the new ordinance, properties ten acres or larger could only grow up to 150 square feet.  The maximum plant count would be chopped from 99 to about a dozen.

Eric Berg is a Chico attorney who has represented hundreds of clients regarding the use of medicinal marijuana.  He describes the proposed limits as “stupid.”

”The limitations they are making are so outrageously limited that they amount to an absolute prohibition,” said Berg.

All five supervisors support the restrictions, which they say would remove profit motive, make for safer and more odor-free neighborhoods and improve the environment caused by the growing of pot.

Supervisor Maureen Kirk said the public outcry convinced supervisors to revisit the controversial issue.

”We've never had so many people come to our board meetings to express their dismay at the marijuana situation,” said Kirk.  “We were overwhelmed with people who have just had it.”

But Berg insists the law is on his and his clients' side.

”Even the California Legislature can't limit the number of plants a medical user has or grows or uses,” explained Berg.  “So the Butte County Supervisors have no authority to do that.”

The Butte County Supervisors support this ordinance unanimously, by a vote of 5-0.  But it remains to be seen if all the voters of the county support it. 

A couple of years ago, an ordinance with tighter restrictions was overturned by a vote of the people.  The supervisors hope that a more skeptical view of medicinal marijuana may prevail if another referendum is tried.    

The supervisors cite the growing number of negative stories generated by the expanding use of medicinal marijuana, including increased crime and even abuse of the drug

”Hopefully the voters will get engaged and if it does get on the ballot, they need to vote the way they believe is right,” said Kirk.

Amendments to the ordinance will be presented to the board of supervisors on January 28.

If passed, a final vote will come in February and it would take effect in March.