Marijuana advocates have launched a referendum aimed at quashing a newly revised Lake County ordinance that bans outdoor marijuana cultivation in residential neighborhoods.

The new ordinance is too strict, said Lake County resident Michael Horner, a member of the group that launched the referendum, the Community Alliance to Ban Illegal Cannabis Cultivation.

The group believes the best way to rid the county of "transient criminal growers" is to enact responsible regulations, Horner said.

His organization is working on an alternative ordinance to replace the county's ordinance, he said.

Voters last year soundly defeated a pro-marijuana ordinance that would have allowed pot growers to cultivate up to 12 mature plants in residential backyards of less than a half-acre and larger amounts on bigger parcels.

A revised ordinance was adopted Dec. 17 by the Lake County Board of Supervisors, which allows indoor growing in residential neighborhoods in the unincorporated county. The referendum's proponents erroneously claim in a press release that the ordinance bans all cultivation in residential subdivisions.

Many cities on the North Coast also have banned outdoor growing.

The Lake County ordinance allows outdoor growing on parcels larger than an acre, with up to a maximum of 48 plants on agricultural parcels larger than 20 acres.

County supervisors said they adopted the ordinance in an effort to control rampant pot-growing and its associated stench, which keeps residents from enjoying their own properties.

Marijuana growing also attracts crime, including robberies that have resulted in death, officials noted.

The most recent example is an attempted robbery near Upper Lake on Christmas morning. A suspected robber was shot dead and the residents were arrested on drug and weapons charges. Sheriff's officials said they found nearly 1,000 pounds of marijuana and 17 firearms on properties linked to the shooter.

Horner said illegal large-scale growers likely would be driven out of the county if it is easier for medical marijuana patients to grow their own pot.

The county's revised ordinance extended and tightened rules that were adopted by supervisors last year over the objection of marijuana advocates.

The revisions include rules aimed at preventing electrical fires at indoor marijuana-growing operations and controlling environmental damage from erosion and pesticides.

It goes into effect Jan. 17 unless the referendum's proponents collect nearly 2,200 valid signatures from registered voters in the county.

They have until Jan. 16 to produce the signatures, Horner said.

The referendum's proponents are working in cooperation with other marijuana advocacy groups, including the Green Farmers, Patients Rights Coalition, Emerald Growers Association and Americans For Safe Access, he said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com)