End of outdoor pot grows in Madera County

FRESNO, Calif.

Once this ordinance goes into effect, the Sheriff's Office will be busy making sure people are in compliance. Madera County has never had any pot growing restrictions in place, until the board of supervisors approved this one at their meeting, three weeks ago.

John Anderson said, "People will rent a house, tear up a backyard, and fill it with marijuana. They will rent farm acreage."

According to Anderson, in many of those cases, the marijuana was tied to Mexican cartels. "This definitely wasn't being grown for medical purposes. It was for sale, criminal purposes."

During a tense meeting on March 13th, the board of supervisors discussed the issue, and unanimously approved a first-of-its kind ordinance. Starting Friday, outdoor grows are no longer allowed.

Instead, grows must be contained within a 120 square foot enclosure, like a bedroom, green house, or shed. And they can't go within 2,000 feet of a church, school or other public building.

So what is 120 square feet? Well, we measured, and found it's about the size of an office. Some argue, even for one person, that isn't big enough to grow enough quality medical marijuana. Rita Smith, a medical marijuana advocate said, "You have to grow it 6-8 feet apart, so that the sun and the plant will produce the compounds necessary for medicinal use."

Smith's husband owns the Heaven Scent Organics collective in Oakhurst. Growers themselves, she says the ordinance is not feasible, and goes against their rights under California's medical marijuana law.

"You cannot re-write legislative at the county level," said Smith. "You have to put it back on the ballot."

Smith adds, the ordinance will make less product available for collectives, forcing people to buy it illegally.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Anderson insists, the goal is not to take marijuana away from people who need it. But rather, from those who profit by breaking Federal law.

Sheriff Anderson says his office will start enforcing the ordinance on Monday.

As for Rita Smith, she already has plans to file an appeal.

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