CLEARLAKE, Calif. – The Clearlake City Council came out against Measure D at its Thursday night meeting, with council members using some of the harshest language yet in describing the marijuana cultivation initiative that goes before voters June 5.
The council voted 4-0 – with Councilmember Joyce Overton absent – to formally oppose Measure D, which was sponsored by Lake County Green Farmers and Lake County Citizens for Responsible Regulation, the same groups that gathered signatures for a referendum against a county cultivation ordinance last year.
While Vice Mayor Jeri Spittler and Mayor Joey Luiz both said they support marijuana legalization, they joined colleagues Judy Thein and Curt Giambruno in voicing their concerns over the potential harm the measure could do to the county.
Luiz faulted the measure for being four pages of definitions and two pages of actual content.
“That’s garbage. That’s not intelligent planning. It’s a free for all,” Luiz said.
The council’s action follows similar votes taken by the Lake County Office of Education Board of Trustees Wednesday night, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and the Lakeport City Council last week.
Earlier this week the Sierra Club Lake Group also formally announced it was taking a position against Measure D.
Other local organizations that oppose the measure include Lake County Deputy Sheriffs Association, Kelseyville Business Association, Lake County Chamber of Commerce, California Women for Agriculture, Lake County Farm Bureau, the Buckingham and Clear Lake Riviera homeowners associations, and the Lake County Association of Realtors’ Board of Directors.
Rob Brown, a county supervisor who said he was going to the council as a concerned citizen and not an elected official, asked for the council to take the action.
“The issue is not about medical marijuana, so let’s get that out of the way,” he said.
While the measure wouldn’t specifically affect zoning in Clearlake, a similar measure could find its way to a city ballot if Measure D passed within the county, he said.
Brown said most of the 2,100 signatures gathered in support of the initiative were collected in the two cities, adding that residents of the cities can vote on the measure.
“It is about zoning by referendum,” said Brown. “It’s a very dangerous proposition to get into.”
The Lake County Board of Supervisors adopted its own medical marijuana cultivation ordinance on Oct. 11, 2011, rescinding it on Jan. 3 after the referendum qualified for the ballot, he said.
A board ordinance can be changed by the board, while such an initiative must go back before voters, Brown explained.
Brown said the county formed a new committee to look at alternatives, including crafting a new ordinance.
If Measure D passed, “The implications could be very huge,” Brown said. “It’s a badly written initiative. It may have been well intended but it was badly written.”
While Measure D’s proponents have said it provides regulations where there were none, Brown said that isn’t accurate, pointing to the county ordinance that had been in place and which the initiative’s proponents weren’t willing to give a chance.
Lower Lake attorney Ron Green, reportedly one of the people responsible for drafting Measure D, called Brown’s comments “a bunch of hooey” and said the Board of Supervisors passed “a terrible, draconian” ordinance.
Green also argued that the board hadn’t needed to rescind its ordinance, but could have placed it on the ballot.
“There’s no reason for this council to get involved in supporting or not supporting Measure D,” he said.
However, Green urged them to support what he called a “very reasonable regulation.”
He said the Lake County Green Farmers had attempted to get reasonable regulations in the form of Measure D, which he said was “strictly a zoning ordinance.”
Brown, returning to the microphone, said Green was “way off base,” adding that he thought Green was being inaccurate intentionally.
He said the Board of Supervisors had chosen not to put the county ordinance on the ballot because that would have made it the same as the initiative, meaning it could not have been changed by the board. “It has nothing to do with our ordinance is better than theirs.”
Spittler said she was concerned about how Measure D did not apply the same zoning rules and regulations to growers as to other interests.
She raised issues with enforcing existing rules on erosion, which has serious impacts on Clear Lake, and said it would override existing zoning laws on grows in residential areas and empty lots.
Spittler said she supported medical marijuana, and was pleased by the supervisors forming the new advisory committee to consider a new ordinance because she wanted fairness for everyone, but added, “I have a lot of concerns about Measure D.”
While Spittler said she would like to see marijuana become an accepted agricultural crop, “The commercial grows within the city limits needs to stop. It’s dangerous.”
Green wanted to respond to Spittler, but Luiz said no, that he was not going to allow a back and forth.
Councilmember Judy Thein said she’s always believed the cities and county should be in the same boat, rowing together.
The three jurisdictions have taken united stances on issues such as the spay-neuter ordinance, limits on pseudoephedrine purchases and an underage drinking ordinance.
“And I think this one should go on that list also,” Thein said of Measure D.
If the measure passed, it would require more initiatives to fix it – at a cost of $12,000 per election – tie the hands of current and future supervisors and override existing zoning, she said.
“And that’s not what we’re all about,” Thein said. “We need to do this right.”
Thein said opposing Measure D represented responsible planning now and in the future.
Giambruno offered no comments other than to move to take a formal stance of opposition against it.
Luiz noted the difficulties counties and cities have encountered in dealing with the requirements of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act passed by California voters in 1996.
He said he’s pro-marijuana, and supports legalization and regulation. “It should be off our backs,” with local leaders able to deal with issues like roads and stop signs.
He said he didn’t think the county ordinance was a good one, and was glad the county was going to give it another try. The city also is planning to work on a cultivation ordinance. “I look forward to working on that.”
Luiz went on to fault the plant totals offered by Measure D, which allows 12 female plants to be grown in residential areas on lots under a half acre, 24 plants on lots larger than a half acre and 84 plants on larger parcels. He called the amounts “ridiculous.”
Measure D gives growers free rein, said Luiz, adding that local leaders already are dealing with 100 years of bad planning in Lake County.
“This does not make any sense in my opinion,” he said.
It also served as a red flag to Luiz that Measure D is opposed by both the Sierra Club and Lake County Chamber of Commerce.
He said he wanted to oppose the measure as a statement by the council.
“We are here as leaders to help communicate what’s good for our future and what’s not,” he said.
Luiz said he would accept a second to Giambruno’s motion, which Thein offered, with the 4-0 vote following.
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