Fresno County supervisors OK preliminary marijuana ban

Fresno County is a step closer to making growing medical marijuana against the law.
December 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Fresno County is a step closer to making growing medical marijuana against the law.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Department raided more than 100 big marijuana farms this year but acknowledged there are about 500 they couldn't get to.

Those untouched farms in the Squaw Valley area are a problem for residents like Norma Jean Onyschuk. She told the board members on Tuesday, "I don't feel safe walking down my street anymore because there's a grow on the next street down from me."

While the law hasn't been able to stop the big operations, the Board voted to put another law on the books. This time, banning the growing of all marijuana, even just a few plants inside a house.

Supervisor Anderas Borgeas believes even though state law allows for medical marijuana use the county can stop it. "You do not have a right to smoke marijuana or to have medically based access to marijuana."

Many in the audience, like county resident Ray Wells strongly disagreed. "There is no way you should be able to tell us that we cannot grow 6 plants within the confines our own home."

A parade of medical marijuana users appealed to the board not to impose a ban.

Construction company owner George Boyadjian told the board he uses marijuana for pain relief from injuries suffered in a traffic accident. "Cannabis is the main thing I use for my condition and I would urge the board to not take that away from me and not make me into a criminal."

Supervisor Judy Case, who is a Registered Nurse, said there are other alternatives. "There are quite a few drugs available by prescription."

A recent study shows prescription pain killer abuse is a leading cause of death in this country.

Another just released study by the Field Poll shows 56 percent of Californians support the decriminalization of the use and cultivation of marijuana, as Washington and Colorado have already done.

But the Supervisors were unanimous in their position that robberies of marijuana farms and shootings have created a crime problem and are a public nuisance.

Attorney Brenda Linder argued that the reason there is a public safety problem is because the ban on marijuana, like the ban on alcohol decades ago, leads to crime. "As we know from history, anytime there is prohibition crime actually increases. It doesn't decrease and we've seen that happen here as well."

And Michael Green said banning indoor growing will not stop those illegal pot plantations. "These cartels and these illegal grows are going to continue. That's what they do it. They are outlaws, the only people you are hurting is people like me, the everyday citizens who comply with the law and lead a lawful life.

But the board was not swayed.

Supervisor Debbie Poochigian said, "We have a public safety issue in all corners of our county."

And Supervisor Borgeas reflected the will of the entire board when he said, "A complete ban on this is in the best interests of the community."

The board had two options, one to limit marijuana growing to an indoor setting with a few plants. The other to ban both indoor and outdoor. Since the board members felt the definition of indoor, being within four walls and a roof could mean a plastic tent, they decided to go for the complete ban.

Under the ordinance it would be like a zoning violation to grow medical marijuana anywhere in the county, and civil, not criminal offense.

The board gave preliminary approval to the marijuana ban at Tuesday's meeting. They will take a final vote on January 7th.


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