If there is power in numbers, area pot growers have filed a powerful lawsuit against Tehama County.
The lawsuit was filed recently by local medical marijuana patients against Tehama County's marijuana cultivation ordinance, which regulates where and how much marijuana a patient or caregiver can grow in the county.
The plaintiffs claim that the ordinance makes it impossible for them to legally exercise their Proposition 215 right to cultivate medical marijuana for themselves, according to a statement released by the law firm of E.D. Lerman and J. David Nick, which filed the suit in Tehama County Superior Court.
The exact number of plaintiffs was not known immediately. However, hundreds of people signed up to be part of the lawsuit at a informational meeting held by the law firm in April.
Financially supported by California NORML, a pro-medical marijuana group dedicated to reforming California's marijuana laws, the lawsuit asks to strike down the county ordinance.
At the April meeting, Lerman told the group to expect a "long haul," and she anticipates that whichever way the lawsuit is settled - for the plaintiffs or for the county - it will be appealed and could possibly go as far as the Supreme Court.
The attorney also told the group to start raising money to cover some of the cost the lawsuit will incur.
"They can't take everyone's rights away," Lerman said. "California law states (medicinal marijuana) patients can have whatever they need for themselves and for collectives."
Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams, who introduced the ordinance, said he had anticipated something like this taking place.
"They threatened this all along, through the whole process. I stand by the ordinance and what it means to the county. Other than that, because of the litigation, I can't say much," Williams said.
"I am all about this. They aren't taking my rights away," medical marijuana patient Kenny Kunselman of Rancho Tehama, said.
According to Kathy Prather, co-owner/operator of Tehama Herbal Collective, a medical marijuana shop in Corning, there are more than 3,600 people in the county who hold recommendations for medicinal marijuana.
The Tehama ordinance declares it a public nuisance to grow marijuana anywhere within 1,000 feet of a school, school bus stop, church, park, or youth-oriented facility.
It also states no more than 12 mature or 24 immature marijuana plants can be grown in an area 20 acres or less, and if both mature and immature plants are growing there shall be no more than 24 total; in an area greater than 20 but less than 160 acres no more than 30 mature and 60 immature plants, with no more than 60 total at one time; and in an area 160 acres or greater no more than 99 plants, whether mature or immature.
The ordinance requires outdoor gardens be surrounded by an opaque fence at least six feet high and located 100 feet or more from the property boundaries; and requires every patient garden to be registered with the county health services agency.
In another lawsuit filed by Lerman and Nick, Mendocino County medical marijuana patients are challenging an ordinance that limits patient cultivation to 25 plants per parcel, regardless of the number of patients. The ordinance was recently amended to let collectives apply for licenses for larger gardens of up to 99 plants under certain conditions.
By Julie R. Johnson/Tri-County Newspapers
Tuesday, Jun 8 2010