Two members of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors failed to push through a proposal to repeal the county's guidelines on medical marijuana cultivation and possession.
After listening for nearly two hours to medical marijuana lawyers, patients and advocates lambast the lack of outreach on the repeal effort, the board voted 5-0 to set it aside.
The hearing was the last for Supervisor Valerie Brown, who with Board Chairwoman Shirlee Zane led an ad hoc committee that crafted the proposal to change the guidelines, in place since 2006, to reduce the permissible amounts.
Brown, after the impassioned and at times rowdy hearing, gave an emotional apology.
"I just flat out failed you and I'm sorry," said Brown. "I want to thank all of you for coming forward — the majority of you I agree with."
But the supervisors voted to move forward with two additional proposals made by Brown and Zane. They agreed to have the committee craft an ordinance that would prohibit the use of unoccupied residential buildings to grow marijuana.
They also voted to establish a "working group" to help the county shape its medical marijuana policies that would include patients, law enforcement and a wide range of people involved in the issue.
The board's 2006 resolution permits patients to have 30 plants or 100-square-feet of cultivation space and 3 pounds of dried pot per year.
Brown and Zane said they set out to revise the county's guidelines to address a spike in pot-fueled crime. They suggested adopting the state guidelines, which permit patients to have six mature plants or 12 immature plants and 8 ounces of dried pot.
Physicians can recommend marijuana in amounts beyond state and county guidelines.
The more than two-hour-long hearing came before a packed audience that spilled into the hallway with rows of folding chairs set up to accommodate the crowd.
Audience members included noted medical marijuana attorney Omar Figueroa, Sebastopol vice mayor and dispensary founder Robert Jacob, dispensary owners and dozens of medical cannabis patients.
Many in the audience wore pink stickers that read, "Don't Criminalize Patients."
Brown and Zane tried to reassure a sometimes hissing crowd that they did not intend to make it harder for patients to access medicine.
"We're not talking about a criminal offense where someone is carrying a little bit of dope in their car," Zane said. "We're talking about real violent crime and real offenses."
Brown said, "I still believe in the use of medical marijuana that compassionate use is appropriate, real and productive."
But that message was not heard by many at the hearing.
Supervisor Efren Carrillo led the charge criticizing the process with a statement on Facebook the day before the vote that he was "livid and appalled with the lack of public engagement on this issue between stakeholders and the Board."
Carrillo took a softer tone at the hearing, and said that although he believed Zane and Brown had good intentions, he had "serious concern" that medical marijuana users weren't consulted.
"Never at any point did we discuss the repeal of the 2006 decision, I don't recall ever having that discussion," Carrillo said.
Among dozens of speakers one of the primary concerns was that Brown and Zane consulted law enforcement but did not consult medical marijuana patients.