Merced County is making moves to reverse its stance on growing marijuana outdoors, which advocates say will affect the poorest and sickest medical cannabis users.
The Merced County Board of Supervisors gave its staff direction on Tuesday to begin to repeal its 2013 ordinance that allows patients to grow 12 plants outside. At the same time, the supervisors asked staff to come up with a plan to allow deliveries, which were previously banned.
Instead the county would rely on the provision in Proposition 64, which allows anyone to grow six plants indoors. But, growing indoors is more costly because it requires the right equipment, according to Susan Bouscaren, president of Jack’s Greenhouse Association, a delivery service co-op that serves the Merced area.
“You’re looking at poor people growing their own medicine,” she said. “They’re not going to have the facility, they’re not going to have the money to grow these things indoors.”
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I know we want to start tight, but it affects the most vulnerable in the county.
Jesse Ornelas, a Merced resident who ran for public office last year
Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke has been an outspoken proponent of banning outdoor growing, saying it invites violence and mayhem.
The 2013 county ordinance allowed medical marijuana cultivation to 12 plants per parcel of land, regardless of the property’s size or the maturity of the plants. Prop, 64 passed by voters last year legalized recreational marijuana and earlier this summer Gov. Jerry Brown and other lawmakers agreed on a plan to blend recreational and medical marijuana laws.
State agencies also are working to build regulations for licensing marijuana businesses in 2018. Until then, marijuana cultivation is regulated at the local level.
The new ordinance may be just the beginning, according to county CEO Jim Brown, who said the county should start conservatively because “it’s easier to expand than to contract.”
You’re looking at poor people growing their own medicine. They’re not going to have the facility, they’re not going to have the money to grow these things indoors.
Susan Bouscaren, president of Jack’s Greenhouse Association, a delivery service co-op that serves the Merced area
In the meantime, that leaves the most vulnerable out in the cold, according to Jesse Ornelas, a Merced resident who ran for public office last year. The underprivileged may not be able to grow inside.
“I know we want to start tight, but it affects the most vulnerable in the county,” he said.
Not everyone supports outdoor growing. The Merced County Farm Bureau has taken a hard line against it, according to Breanne Ramos, executive director of the Merced County Farm Bureau. The group is concerned about water use.
“We would like to see where the feds go prior to to implementing anything,” she said.
Marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government.