Fresno's outdoor pot growing ban is now permanent

FRESNO, Calif.

Robberies and shootings associated with outdoor marijuana gardens prompted the city council last January to approve a temporary ban on growing pot outside. Now the ban is permanent.

Deputy Police Chief Keith Foster told the city council forcing medical marijuana users to keep their crop inside and out of sight is less likely to attract criminals. But marijuana advocate Michael Green told the council it will just move the crime inside.

Green said, "Instead of people jumping fences we're taking home invasion robberies, home fires and other negative impacts with home cultivation."

And the council was told growing marijuana indoors out of the sunlight means expensive lights and equipment and wastes energy.

Dustin Fraser Lowery said, "I feel it's way too restrictive, it will cost the patients thousands of more dollars to produce their medicines indoors."

But the council also heard from one citizen opposed to any marijuana growing.

"With these drugs out here it's not safe," Esther Hensley said. "That's where you get a lot of the gang bangers and a lot of the people out here trying to sell this stuff and it causes a lot of killing."

A sentiment shared by city council member Larry Westerlund. He said, "It needs to be controlled. It needs to be in my opinion, banned completely."

In fact, Westerlund questioned why the ordinance wasn't more restrictive. But attorney Brenda Linder warned the council pending court decisions, and additional state legislation would eventually overturn the cities ban. And Lindner added restricting access to the legal medical use of marijuana hurts law abiding citizens, and enriches criminals.

Linder said, "The drug dealers, you can hear them jumping up and down for joy on the street corner every time this happens."

The city's rule is like a zoning ordinance, so someone who is authorized to grow medical marijuana, would face a civil fines and penalties not criminal charges if they are caught growing it outside.

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