Lake County law-enforcement and government officials fear property values and public safety will be threatened by a proposed ballot initiative that would allow up to 12 budding marijuana plants in residential backyards and 84 on parcels of seven acres or more.
On rural parcels, "right to farm regulations" would apply, prohibiting the county or neighboring property owners from complaining the pot gardens are nuisances.
"It would just nuke people's property rights up here. Just nuke 'em," Lake County Community Development Director Rick Coel said.
The Lake County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will decide whether to adopt the proposed initiative as an ordinance or place it on the June ballot, following a successful signature petition drive by its backers.
The initiative's proponents, the Lake County Green Farmers Association and Citizens for Responsible Regulations, also obtained sufficient signatures to overturn a county marijuana ordinance that would have banned outdoor marijuana cultivation in residential neighborhoods.
Supervisors rescinded that ordinance rather than place the issue on the ballot. Last year, a separate referendum drive resulted in the board rescinding its ordinance regulating marijuana dispensaries.
Proponents of the Lake County Medical Marijuana Cultivation Act of 2012 say their initiative is aimed at providing medicinal marijuana users safe access to pot. They said the county's plan to ban outdoor growing in residential neighborhoods was too restrictive.
"We're looking for responsible regulations," said Don Merrill, a former hog farmer and spokesman for the initiative effort. "People need to be encouraged to grow a little bit for themselves."
He said the 84 plant maximum on rural properties is not high, compared with other Northern California counties.
Local officials are more concerned with the 12 plants that could be grown in residential backyards, regardless of size.
"Twelve plants residentially is too many. It really infringes on the rights of their neighbors," said Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero.
Some cities, including Lakeport and Ukiah, allow only indoor growing, an effort aimed at reducing both the strong odor of ripe marijuana buds and crime associated with marijuana production.
Last week there were at least two armed home invasion robberies in Lake County associated with marijuana, Rivero said.
Merrill said people in residential neighborhoods could complain if the pot their neighbors grow constitutes a nuisance, so there is recourse. The group's attorney, Ron Green, said there also are varieties of marijuana that produce less of an odor than others.
Rivero also questioned why someone would need 12 plants for personal medicinal use. With each plant capable of producing up to 5 pounds, that's 60 pounds of marijuana, he said.
At $2,000 a pound, conservatively, that's a valuable product that is likely to attract crime, Rivero said.
Supervisor Rob Brown said he believes most of the growers are cultivating pot for profit, not for medicine.
The intiative is scheduled to be considered by supervisors at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or Glenda.firstname.lastname@example.org