Fresno County supervisors on Tuesday closed a potential loophole that could have allowed medical marijuana farming in some county areas despite a month-old ban on pot cultivation.
County zoning codes allowed marijuana cultivation in manufacturing zones, but the board's action eliminated that provision. No business licenses had been issued for cultivation in manufacturing zones.
Medical marijuana advocates said Tuesday they will continue fighting the bans. They are gathering signatures for a referendum to overturn the county ban and are considering legal action. Fresno became California's first county to ban all cultivation.
Supervisors imposed the ban last month because of 20 incidents of violent crime linked to marijuana farming operations in 2013.
Timothy Jennings of Fresno told supervisors that he wants to follow cultivations laws, but can't if medical marijuana is not lawfully available.
"I used to be on 22 separate medications that were killing me in the long run," he said. "It helps me with my pain, it helps me sleep when nothing else would. I took so many pills ... they were toxic to my system."
Supervisor Henry R. Perea said he sympathized with those needing marijuana for pain relief, but too much violence has occurred because of marijuana cultivation.
"What we know is what was happening was not working," he said.
Supervisor Judy Case McNairy said California voters were not thinking of 100 plants or more being grown for one person's medical needs. She added that voters never anticipated the 1996 voter initiative that legalized medical marijuana would lead to acres of the plants growing next to schools and people getting shot for entering marijuana fields.
"This got turned on its head," she said.
Medical marijuana advocates say they're not giving up their fight. They already are gathering signatures for a referendum to overturn the bans.
Fresnocannabis.org has a petition on its website and needs 20,130 signatures by Thursday to halt the ban until county supervisors reverse their vote or a countywide election is held, said Brandi Orth, Fresno County clerk/registrar of voters.
Advocate Michael Green said he doesn't think organizers will have enough signatures by the deadline to require a referendum.
"We have raised awareness of what's going on," he said. "It's been difficult to get (petition) signatures from people who don't know it happened."
But even if the petitions don't halt the ban, he said, "this will land in court."
In other action, supervisors:
- Approved paying back cities for excessive fees the county charged for tax collection from 2006 until this year. Six cities will get nearly $5.2 million. Eight other cities previously settled, but the city of Parlier -- owed about $40,000 -- has not, said Vicki Crow, Fresno County auditor-tax collector. Most of the money will go to Fresno, about $3.8 million, while Clovis gets $760,468, Crow said.
- Named David Pomaville as county public health director, and Robert Bash as the county's new chief information officer/director of internal services.
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