HANFORD – The Hanford City Council took the first steps Tuesday toward possibly banning the cultivation of marijuana in the city limits.
Capt. Parker Sever said local law enforcement is aware of several Hanford residences with more than 100 marijuana plants on site. Sever said the locations have been the source of numerous complaints by neighbors, as well as reports of theft and burglary.
"It's obviously an attractive nuisance to the youth of Hanford when they find out where these locations are and they know all they've got to do is jump a fence to get to them,” Sever said. “And then you have homeowners who are trying to protect their crop."
Sever said the Hanford Police Department has been working on two possible ordinances to address the issue. One would enact an outright ban on the cultivation of marijuana in the city limits. The other ordinance would allow the plants to be grown in the city’s industrial zones as long as the operation complied with various safety requirements.
Either option would still permit those with medical marijuana cards to use the drug at their residence. They would simply have to go to a dispensary in another city to obtain it.
Councilman Jim Irwin expressed concerns that an outright ban could be hard on citizens who have a legitimate medical need for the drug.
"I just have a problem with, if someone really has a medical issue that [marijuana] works for them, that you would say, 'No, you can't here. Move elsewhere,'" Irwin said.
Vice Mayor Russ Curry, a retired Hanford police officer, said he felt an outright ban would be the best solution.
"Personally, I'd like to see it banned, period,” Curry said. “I don't want to see it in the industrial parks, and then next thing you know it's in commercial zones. It's just easier for me just to say no."
The California Supreme Court ruled last year that cities may regulate the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana, including banning those activities.
In the absence of Mayor Gary Pannett and Councilwoman Joleen Jameson, Curry asked that the council wait until all five members are present to make a decision.
Sever said he will return with both possible ordinances for the full council to consider at a later meeting.
As the council goes forward with its discussion, other local agencies have already begun tackling concerns about the state’s medical marijuana system.
In 2011, the Kings County Board of Supervisors adopted an all-out ban on medical marijuana cultivation, cooperatives, collectives and other forms of medical marijuana distribution.
Kings County Sheriff Dave Robinson told The Sentinel that the ordinance was aimed at addressing loopholes in Proposition 215, which was approved by California voters in 1996 to allow seriously ill patients to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes.
Robinson said a single plant can yield about five pounds of marijuana, meaning that a person with 100 or more plants is growing far more than they could use by themselves. He said sheriff’s office staff is trained to use their discretion so they don’t seize plants from people who clearly need them as medicine.
“That’s not medical use,” Robinson said. “That’s an abuse of the law.”
Lemoore adopted an ordinance in late 2012 that placed strict regulations on the cultivation of medical marijuana. Cultivation is only permitted in a secure, locked and fully enclosed structure.
Lemoore police Chief Darrell Smith said Hanford’s decision will likely influence some revisions to Lemoore's ordinance.
“I’m going to watch that closely,” Smith said of the Hanford discussion, “because at some point I’m going to add some modifications to [our ordinance].”
Smith said he believes that any local law should ultimately be backed by statewide legislation like Senate Bill 1262. That bill, introduced earlier this year, garnered support from the California Police Chiefs Association but failed to make it out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee before last week’s deadline.
Robinson said state legislators need to work together to pass a bill that will finally address issues in the state’s medical marijuana system.
“Until they do, we need everything we can get at the local level,” Robinson said.