The City of Concord Council will be holding a public hearing and voting to eliminate outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana on March 26 at 6:30pm. Mark Coon, the city’s attorney was asked last year by the Council to draft an ordinance banning outdoor growing pot for medical uses. This came after a neighbor of a legal medical marijuana patient complained about the patient’s cultivation of medical marijuana for himself and other qualified patients, on privately owned property. One side of this issue, neighbors, homeowners and apparently city government feel that they can dictate what other neighbors and homeowners can and can’t do in their own backyard. However outdoor growing of medical marijuana may be a medical necessity, is legal and can lead to improved quality of life. The method of resolving these apparent conflicts should not violate the U.S. Constitution 5 amendment, which should not constitute the “taking” of medicinal property.
The planning commission in February voted to have the council approve the ordinance, without any acknowledgement or warning to the public or patients legally prescribed medical marijuana. They also did it without completing necessary and important health, economic, emotional, or psychological impact studies on the patients effected.
LEGALIZATION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Proposition 215 and the “Compassionate Use Act” allowed for the growth of marijuana for medical purposes. This state law was voted on and passed in 1996 by California residences, including City of Concord residences. According to Coon’s interpretation of the law, that does not guarantee the right to grow marijuana outdoors. This is the same City Attorney that admits that the Concord Police Department is violating the 2008 California Court of Appeals decision in People v. Kelly which specifies the quantity of dried marijuana and mature or immature plants per qualified patient is between the patient and the physician not a city or local law enforcement.
In 2005, the City of Concord adopted an ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries within City limits (Concord Municipal Code §18-331.) after two dispensaries (which brought jobs) attempted to open up shop. As soon as they open, they were both slapped with a cease and desist orders and charged a heavy fine of $1,000 per day for every day they stayed open.
EFFECTS ON PATIENTS
Some may argue that is was the City of Concord that brought the outdoor grow problem on itself by not allowing patients to get access to their medications and forcing them to grow at home or travel out of the East Bay and often into unsafe and unfamiliar neighbors to gain access to their medication. According to Americans for Safe Access, “At least twenty East Bay cities now have bans in place, including Emeryville, Dublin, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Pleasanton, Antioch, Brentwood, Concord, Danville, Hercules, Lafayette, Moraga, Oakley, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and San Pablo.”
To grow out doors all you need is dirt, sunlight and let nature take its course. There are substantial energy and equipment costs associated with growing marijuana or any plants indoors. They require high-powered lights which in turn can raise a patient’s PG&E bill anywhere between a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand depending on the prescription and the setup. There is also expensive and often bulky equipment needed to grow indoors. A patient would need indoor space for the system and the physical abilities to maintain it.
For patients on disability or on fixed income this an expensive project that would need start-up money ranging from hundreds to thousands depending on size and set up and still doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. Knowledge of hydroponics and problems associated with medical marijuana plants are also required. The process is so extensive that some patients chose to take courses to learn medical marijuana cultivation. Some patients claim it could take months to even years to learn to successfully grow medical marijuana indoors. This process is much more likely of resulting in unstable access to a much-needed medicine than simply growing outdoors. Many feel that these factors puts an undue hardship to those whose doctors have prescribed the controversial medication.
EFFECTS ON ECONOMY
Another side effect of the banning of (store front) dispensaries, is the increase in mobile medical marijuana delivery services that have not only flood Concord and other local cities but are making a huge profit since the City of Concord has taken away any real chance of competition. Other businesses that will also directly profit from the ban is hydroponic grow stores and PG&E. With patient’s lights running at peak hours (and sometimes 24 hours a day), energy giant PG&E will be able to charge patients at a premium for as long as they can afford to grow their medication in this expensive and ultimately unnatural fashion.
LEGALITY OF BANNING DISPENSARIES AND OUTDOOR CULTIVATION
It’s the City of Concord’s stance that they are “following the lead of a number of other cities throughout the state of California”. However, the legality of these bans has yet to be challenged. This seems to be an ever-growing trend in federal, state and local governments to pass laws that are unlawful and have no legal merit once properly challenged in court. Unlawful laws are challenged in court, however it may be years until the right situation with the right person makes such a challenge. This leads to years of governments and police officers enforcing laws that are not legal while simultaneously violating rights of the American people.
The legality of cities banning medical marijuana dispensaries is now being challenged. The California Supreme Court recently granted review of two cases involving challenges to similar local ordinances banning medical marijuana dispensaries, People v. G3 Holistic (2011 WL 5416335) and City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, 136 Cal.Rptr.3d 667 (2012). The outcome of the court’s decision, which is due in early 2013, could directly affect Concord’s ordinance, and might also affect any contemplated ban on outdoor medical marijuana cultivation.
Joseph Partansky, Advocate for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) whose followed public policy issues in relation to marijuana and other drugs since 1963 and whose has served on the Alcohol and Other Drug Advisory Board of Contra Costa County does have one question for the City of Concord, “Where has Concord been given the right to either practice medicine or void a California Appellate Court decision (People v Kelly) or California State Law (Prop 215)?”
If you are interested in attending the public hearing, there will be public comment portion where you can state your opinion. If you can’t make it to the meeting you can still let your voice be heard by calling the City Council at (925) 671-3158 or send a email to the city: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the City of Concord’s meeting agenda for March 26, please click the link below. I know this is a hot topic for many, so what’s your thoughts? Please discuss below!
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
6:30 p.m. – Regular Meeting
City Council Chamber
1950 Parkside Drive, Concord, CA