Thursday, April 4, 2013

(Tulare) County grand jury calls for medical pot ordinances


In Tulare County, the city of Lindsay has an ordinance regulating the growing of medical marijuana, but it is one of only five cities with such an ordinance, the Tulare County civil grand jury states in an interim report released Wednesday.

The report also found the city of Porterville does not have an ordinance for marijuana cultivation, nor a permit process.

The growing of marijuana has become a problem in Tulare County, but more so in the rural areas of the county and not in cities. Porterville has had only one large illegal marijuana growing bust in the past couple of years.

However, the grand jury’s investigation found at least 75 residences cultivating marijuana within the city limits, with most of those between 10 and 20 plants, but a few up to the limit of 99 plants.

Police spokesman Dominic Barteau said the department does a good job of keeping track of marijuana gardens in the city, but an ordinance would be helpful.

“I think it would and would make some sort of a difference,” he said, adding the growing of marijuana has built-in danger with it.

“They’re (growers) opening up themselves and their neighbors to all sorts of crime,” he said, adding the city recently had a home invasion robbery in the city involving marijuana.

Right now, police rely on citizens to report those growing marijuana.

“We track them. Contact grower. Check their letter. Make sure they are in compliance,” said Barteau.

He explained that outdoor gardens are especially dangerous because the plants can be seen and become attractive to thieves or robbers.

“We run into problems. We still consider it a problem,” Barteau said. “Neighbors don’t like it, don’t like the smell or the type of people they attract,” he added.

Lindsay reported only one marijuana growing operation in the city and it was in compliance with the recommended issue.

In the county, deputies with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department are scrambling from grow site to grow site. Last year a huge commercial growing operation was taken down in East Porterville and just last month a large operation was busted outside of Dinuba. More than 200,000 plants were destroyed last year alone.

At issue is the California Compassionate Use Act passed in 1996 that makes it legal by state law to possess and even grow a certain amount of marijuana if a person has a letter of recommend from a doctor.

Officials with the county said that law has been abused, with many people fraudulently obtaining the letters of recommend and then growing far more than the letters allow. A man was killed in Woodlake last month over marijuana.

The grand jury explained it did its report because of the issues surrounding the medical marijuana law. The report looked at every city and how each is dealing with the growing of medical marijuana.

The Porterville city council has discussed developing an ordinance regulating the growing of marijuana, but has never followed through. Only Woodlake and Farmersville have ordinances and a permit process for the growing of marijuana. Lindsay is joined by Dinuba and Visalia as having ordinances, but not a permit process.

“Without a MM permit requirement and an MM cultivation ordinance, it is impossible for the cities to keep track of legal MM cultivations,” noted the jury’s report. “All of the incorporated cities within the county need a permit requirement and an ordinance covering MM cultivation,” the jury further stated, recommending the cities establish a “uniform” MM cultivation ordinance.

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