A smear of lipstick
The marijuana deal had reached a mature state of corruption 40 years ago; today it is demented.
The Merced County Counsel’s Office has waxed almost poetical on its themes -- enforcement, administrative hearings, civil proceedings, liens and such -- in the composition of its juridical masterpiece of the year, “An Ordinance Establishing the Regulation of Medical Marijuana Cultivation."
Just to note one example of the rips in the tissue of this legal.poetical fantasy, there are 16 separate requirements for a notice to a landowner to abate the “public nuisance” of a pot patch on his land. Any defense attorney that can’t find something wrong with a Merced County Sheriff’s Office pot-abatement notice should be immediately disbarred.
In fact the County’s legal eagles soar so high that the ordinary reader of proposed ordinances can almost overlook all the toothless phrases in which a “shall” was knocked out to be replaced by a gaping “may.” The latter half of the ordinance blasts holes in the enforcement provisions, culminating in "9.29.201 – No Duty to Enforce," which appears on page 19.
Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed as imposing on the enforcing officer or the County of Merced any duty to issue an (sic) notice to abate unlawful marijuana cultivation, nor to take any other action with regard to any unlawful marijuana cultivation, and neither the enforcing officer nor the County of Merced shall be held liable for failure to issue an order to abate any unlawful marijuana cultivation, nor for failure to abate any unlawful marijuana cultivation, nor for failure to take any other action with regard to any unlawful marijuana cultivation.”
The facts appear to be that production of marijuana is outstripping demand, causing prices to fall, production to increase, organized crime to take a larger part (especially to seek higher prices outside of California), more violence, and – if conceivable —more government corruption. Meanwhile, local landowners are renting acreage to pot growers and the supervisors are afraid to enforce any law denying our Sacred Cows of Agriculture a profit, however much parents in unincorporated communities complain about their kids getting caught in the crossfire of drug-gang shootouts (referred to as "nuisance acts of violence" by the sheriff office's expert).
So, at last, at least in Merced County, ambiguities in marijuana laws are abolished: if the sheriff don’t like you, you could have a multi-agency task force come visit your back 40.
Or not, depending.
Enforcement could depend on almost anything if you happen to have pot growing on your property in County jurisdiction because this law give the sheriff’s office authority to bust or to turn a blind eye depending entirely on its own discretion, according to 9.20.201. And that discretion can be guided by any supervisor according to section 9.29.202:
The Board of Supervisors may supplement, clarify or modify the procedural rules for any hearing herein, including but not limited to, the use of other hearing officers or boards, by resolution. In its sole discretion, the Board of Supervisors may also determine it will serve as the hearing authority to decide abatement, costs and administrative fines and penalties for any purported violation of this Chapter. Should it do so, its decision shall be final, subject only to such review by the courts as the law may allow. Should the Board of Supervisors decide to serve as the hearing authority for the purposes of taking evidence, the evidence may be taken consisten with the rules of section 9.29.086 of this Chapter (which includes such legal wonders as):
D. The Board of Supervisors shall consider the mater de novo, and may affirm, reverse, or modify the determinations contained in the notice to abate unlawful marijuana cultivation …
Bad laws make bad citizens. This “ordinance,” is nothing but a smear of lipstick on an 800-pound pig. -- blj.
Merced County Supervisors hear public on pot plant limit…RAMONA GIWARGIS
MERCED — Cracking down on Merced County's large-scale medical marijuana growing operations without stripping away legitimate users' rights is a hard line to draw — but law enforcement officials think a proposed county ordinance does both.
The Merced County Board of Supervisors heard public comments about the ordinance at its Tuesday meeting, which proposes limiting medical marijuana cultivation to 12 plants per parcel, whether indoor or outdoor.
The supervisors unanimously approved moving forward with the ordinance, setting a final public hearing for next month.
A handful of people voiced support for the ordinance Tuesday, including Merced resident Glenna Havercroft. She described what she endures living between two medical marijuana growing operations.
"It has brought a stench to our neighborhood," Havercroft said. "The most important thing they bring here is fear. I don't sit out on the porch anymore. I sit inside my house with the doors locked."
Winton resident David Ortiz agreed, sharing concerns of "drive-by shootings and pedestrians being shot" in his neighborhood because of the large plantings.
Joe Mendez, a Hilmar resident, had a different perspective.
Mendez said he never thought he'd be a supporter of medical marijuana until he witnessed the positive effects it had on his late wife, who suffered from bipolar disorder.
"The only time I ever saw her be normal was when she was medicated by marijuana," Mendez said. "I now raise my kids by myself."
Law enforcement officials stressed that the ordinance targets large marijuana groves.
Deputy Ray Framstad of the Merced County Sheriff's STAR Team, showed pictures of several large-scale operations on Tuesday, including one yielding 17,000 plants and was run by drug traffickers from outside the state.
"These people are here to make money. Their whole goal is to profit by using Merced County as a grow site," Framstad said. "Then they ship (the product) to other states for profit."
Framstad said the ordinance will hold property owners responsible, many of whom tell agents they had "no idea" a tenant was cultivating marijuana. He said illegal growing operations have negative environmental impacts, such as toxic chemicals in waterways, and were responsible for 14 house fires in 2013.
Amanda Carvajal, Merced County Farm Bureau executive director, said runoff water from the illegal groves has harmful effects on nearby landowners.
"You can have guys who are on their best behavior, doing everything right, then you have some guy down the road dropping toxins in the water," Carvajal said. "And these landowners get in trouble."
County supervisors Tuesday seemed to support the ordinance, with District 1 Supervisor John Pedrozo calling it "long overdue." District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey said she hoped the ordinance would reduce the number of sites allowed near schools.
Atwater High School Principal Alan Peterson said he's noticed a 20 percent rise in drug and alcohol infractions at the school and supports countywide restrictions.
"The county needs a strong and clear ordinance in regard to medical marijuana," Peterson said. "You want to minimize the availability and the effect it has on our students."
The new ordinance would carry stiffer civil and criminal penalties, including abatement and clean-up at the owner's expense, an administrative procedure resulting in penalties or a misdemeanor charge resulting in six months in jail and-or a $1,000 fine.
A final public hearing is set for 10 a.m. on Sept. 10. County supervisors will consider adopting the ordinance.