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Clearlake kills ban on marijuana cultivation

The Clearlake City Council has rescinded its ban on all marijuana cultivation in the face of a lawsuit and a successful signature-gathering campaign that required the city to either drop the ordinance or place it on the ballot.

Instead, it will amend the previous ordinance - which allowed between six and 12 pot plants, depending on parcel size - to make it easier for police to enforce. The revision will include limiting the number of plants that can be grown to six plants per household under the premise that it’s better to “keep it simple, stupid,” City Councilwoman Joyce Overton said.

Medical marijuana advocates Friday were celebrating the Thursday night vote overturning the ordinance, adopted in late February.

“We’re extremely happy,” said Jeri Spittler, a former city councilwoman and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. She said the lawsuit is now moot and will be dropped.

Despite the setback, Overton said she believes the council accomplished at least one of its goals. It demonstrated it is ready and willing to take on illegal marijuana growers, she said.

“I think we made our voices heard; we don’t want these illegal grows in our town,” Overton said.

The Clearlake council majority who voted for the ban said they were forced to do so by scofflaws who were growing well in excess of the city’s plant limits. Other residents were complaining about the skunky smell and said they were worried about associated crime, which has included home-invasion robberies.

But marijuana advocates contended the total ban - one of only four in the state at the time it was adopted - was illegal and unfair to people who depend on pot to treat their ailments.

Spittler, whose husband has cancer, said the city could have limited illegal pot cultivation simply by enforcing the ordinance it had in place.

“I’m really hoping now the police department steps up and eliminates the illegal grows,” she said.

City officials said their earlier ordinance lacked clarity and enforcement tools, which they now plan to add.

You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MendoReporter

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