County Cuts Pot Plant Allowance

County Cuts Pot Plant Allowance
Posted by CN Staff on May 12, 2005 at 15:50:41 PT
By Paul Payne,  The Press Democrat
Source: Press Democrat
Calif. -- Sonoma County law enforcement has slashed the number of plants it will allow people to grow for medical reasons, but has left other restrictions in its 4-year-old policy unchanged.New rules backed by Sheriff Bill Cogbill and District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua allow a person with a doctor's note to grow up to 25 plants, down from the previous 99 plants.
People who exceed the limits after July 1 could be subject to arrest and prosecution, officials said. Exceptions can be made for people who prove a medical need for more marijuana."We felt 99 plants was too many," Cogbill said. "The fear was people were selling it or giving it to other people."Medical pot activists objected to the change, saying people who smoke marijuana for ailments such as migraine headaches or glaucoma won't be able to produce enough weed.Because the yield from a single plant varies from a half-ounce to a pound depending on its size, limiting the number of plants is unfair, said Doc Knapp of the Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana."That's a major concern of ours," Knapp said. "People won't be able to grow what they need."Those who do could unwittingly break the law, Knapp said.Rather than clogging the jail and courts, Knapp said the county should follow the lead of Humboldt, Mendocino and Santa Cruz counties, where plant limits were tossed out. All three counties have adopted restrictions on garden size instead.Other restrictions set by Sonoma County in 2001 - including a 3-pound cap on the amount of pot someone may have in one year and a 100-square-foot limit on gardens - were left intact.The policy was unveiled this week by a group of county police chiefs with input from public health officials and medical marijuana advocates.Whether it will lead to more arrests and criminal convictions was unclear.People growing more than 25 plants will likely have their excess plants confiscated, Cogbill said. They could be cited if the situation warrants, the sheriff said."There has to be some common sense," Cogbill said. "We want to make the statement that this is what we're allowing. If you are over, we could take action depending on the circumstances."Prosecution of cases was less certain.Sonoma County juries have been reluctant to convict people for growing pot for personal use. And the District Attorney's Office has not been pursuing cases.Passalacqua promised in his 2001 campaign against former District Attorney Mike Mullins that he would stop prosecuting medical marijuana users."The bottom line is, we're going to look at each case on its merits," Passalacqua said. "Even though someone may be outside the guideline, it's not automatic that they will be prosecuted. They could be caregivers or growing for more than one patient."Controversy over the issue has raged since voters in 1996 approved Proposition 215, the "Compassionate Use Act," legalizing doctor-approved marijuana statewide.The measure didn't say how patients can legally obtain marijuana, which remains outlawed under federal law, or how much they can legally grow or possess.Last year, the Legislature passed a related bill, SB420, to answer those questions.Passalacqua said the new limits help align the county with state law but are not as restrictive.The state limits people to six mature plants or 12 immature plants, and allows qualified patients or primary caregivers to possess no more than 8 ounces of dried pot per patient.Sonoma County's new policy more than doubles the allowed amount."I think it is a move in the right direction for public safety and to make sure patients' needs are met," Passalacqua said.Note: Limit for medicinal marijuana plants lowered from 99 to 25.Source: Press Democrat, The (CA)Author: Paul Payne, The Press DemocratPublished: Thursday, May 12, 2005Copyright: 2005 The Press DemocratContact: letters pressdemo.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:SAMM Council Passes Ordinance Limiting Growing Reigns Over Pot Rules
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