The Shasta County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution at this meeting to consider amendments to the County’s ordinance regulating the growing of marijuana for medical purposes. This action initiated a process of 2-4 months that includes staff drafting of an ordinance, Planning Commission consideration of a proposed ordinance, and final approval by the Board. At the end of a lengthy and contentious discussion of the resolution, Board Chair David Kehoe pronounced that Shasta is a county of laws and a county of good will. That good will was stretched to the limit in the passionately expressed opinions on this topic.
40 persons spoke on the issue, roughly evenly divided between those who desire some change and those who are concerned with the rights of marijuana growers. The background was established by Sheriff Tom Bosenko: marijuana growing in the county has increased significantly in the last year; illegal plots, including commercial operations, have grown in size; criminal activity associated with growing has increased; stream diversions, water theft, game poaching, and unrestrained pesticide and fertilizer use have all increased. A small group of people are opposed to legal marijuana cultivation, believing that marijuana is a gateway drug and that the current statute has led to dangerous social and environmental conditions in the county. A small group of people believe that Proposition 215 created a right to marijuana cultivation and that any effort to further restrict that cultivation will be met with lawsuits and other forms of resistance. An interesting group of people from both sides expressed support for those growing within the framework of plants for medical use. They proposed some sort of permitting or licensing or tagging of plants so that legal growers could document their compliance with the law. Presumably, this would allow the focus of enforcement activities on large, commercial plots and those using illegal resources and chemicals to support their crop. People from both sides expressed concern about the degradation of environmental and water resources. Folks on both sides of the issue also expressed concern that a major issue was the lack of enforcement of the current statute, with some concern that tightening the ordinance wouldn’t be effective absent more enforcement resources.
The current marijuana ordinance allows cultivation as an accessory to a legally established residence; indoor cultivation is permitted only in detached structures; cultivation area is limited to a range from 60 square feet to 360 square feet, depending on parcel size; cultivation must be set back from parcel lines, neighbor residences, schools and other sensitive uses. The resolution adopted on this day would consider amending the ordinance to prohibit cultivation outdoors; prohibit cultivation in some sensitive areas (such as waterways or nature preserves); limit the number of plants; change violations from infractions to misdemeanors; and consider permitting or licensing legal plants. County Counsel offered the information that licensing or permitting growing was potentially problematic legally as long as marijuana growing is illegal under federal law. This issue will, of course, continue to be debated over the coming weeks as a proposed ordinance is developed.
The Board did other business, of course. They approved a Declaration of Local Emergency and request to the state to declare a State Emergency associated with the Clover Fire in the Happy Valley/Igo/Ono/Cottonwood area. This will permit various resources to be made available to individuals and public entities affected by the fire. The Board also approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association covering wages, benefits and terms and conditions of employment. The most significant elements are an increase in employee contributions to health care payments and an increase in salary amounts this year (2%), next year (3%), the next year (2%) and the next year (2%). The Memorandum is the product of a good faith bargaining process, and will result in an approximate cost of $688,000 net over the term of the agreement (January 1, 2013 through August 31, 2016).
The Board heard something about the Brave Faces Project. This web-based program showcases local individuals willing to share various experiences with mental illness. It also provides speakers on the issues of mental illness and stigma. The Project is staffed by Marc Dadigan, Community Education Specialist in the Health and Human Services Agency. He was recognized as the Shasta County Employee of the Month. For more information about mental illness, google Stand Against Stigma and select the Shasta County site.
Catherine Camp is currently retired. She served as a Consultant to the California Senate Budget Committee in 2001-02, reviewing Social Services, Employment Development, Aging, Community Services, Alcohol and Drug Programs, Rehabilitation and Child Support budgets. From 1989-2000, Catherine was Executive Director for the California Mental Health Directors Association. During that period, Catherine staffed the county mental health system’s restructuring of public mental health through Realignment of community and long term care programs from the state to the county, transfer of the management of specialty mental health Medi-Cal services to those counties that agreed to provide them, development of risk mechanisms for consortia of small counties, and advocacy and policy analysis for the operation of public mental health programs throughout the state. Her prior experience includes Executive Director to the California-Nevada Community Action Association, Principal Consultant to the Assembly Human Services Policy Committee, and Director of Community Action and Head Start programs in Shasta County.