There are two issues I am writing about today: one, Butte County government’s recent marijuana ordinance; and two, the destruction of the local environment that results from grows in violation of state law and the lack of help from state agencies.

Butte County California Board of Supervisors passed a marijuana ordinance after input from the sheriff, district attorney, and county counsel. In addition, four anti-marijuana citizens and four pro-marijuana citizens gave input into the ordinance’s creation. It is a land-use regulation, and in no way was enacted to regulate either medical cannabis or recreational use of cannabis. The regulation may be downloaded here.

Briefly, the law requires growers to know and comply with both State law requirements and local jurisdiction requirements. We have provided call center resources that residents of Butte County may utilize to receive answers to their questions regarding criminal compliance and the County’s established cultivation ordinance.

Persons making a complaint under this ordinance must reside within 1,500 feet of the property that is the subject of the complaint and must provide a name and address. Exceptions to the residency requirement for complaints are made for school administrators, church pastors, public park administrators, business owners and landlords when a complaint relates to a facility under their control.

There are limitations on plant count by parcel size and minimum required setbacks.

  • Growers must be County residents for at least one (1) year prior to cultivation.
  • Growers must either own the premises or have entered into a written lease with the owner.
  • If the person cultivating or harvesting marijuana is not the owner of the parcel, the person shall obtain the written notarized permission of the owner.
  • There must be a legal residence, no camping to grow.
  • The residence must have a legal water and sewer system.
  • Cultivation or harvesting requires the use and disposal of chemicals pursuant to law.
  • Outdoor grows must not be visible from the public right-of-way or from a publicly-traversed, privately-maintained road. On lots of less than 5 acres, the plants must be behind a solid, opaque fence at least 6-feet in height.
  • Cultivation is prohibited within 1,000 feet of a youth-oriented facility, a school, a park, a church or residential treatment facility. Cultivation is prohibited within 600 feet of a school bus stop.
  • Cultivation is prohibited in commercial zones, industrial zones and special purpose zones.
  • Growers must have a legal water source on the premises and must not engage in unlawful or un-permitted surface drawing of water.
  • Growers are also not permitted to illegally discharge water from the premises.
  • Growers may not ignore grading ordinances

As anyone might observe, this ordinance does not condone the desecration of our forested lands. And to this end, the entire board of Butte County Supervisors suffers from shared frustration: the lack of cooperation from the State and Federal regulatory agencies in the area of environmental enforcement.

It is true that as Chair I signed the letterto the California Water Quality Board, but it was at the unanimous direction of the entire Board of Supervisors. Our frustration: the same people who harass and fine legitimate government or private companies for minor violations will not even provide service for flagrant violations of the water quality act. We have sent pictures of stripped land and terraced hillsides in sensitive watersheds with obvious erosion issues. The excuse given is there is danger involved. So in effect, if a violator arms up nobody from the state is going to write him up.

Butte County residents have a sheriff who is willing and able to provide an armed officer—or more if required—at site visits. In fact, yesterday the sheriff, undersheriff, a deputy and two fish and game wardens gave Assemblyman Dan Logue and myself a tour of several grow sites. We were safe enough. Both sites displayed chemicals oozing out of the individual grow spots leaving an oil-like deposit on the ground waiting for rain to transfer the nitrates into our streams. Both sites also hosted large deposits of loose dirt directly in line with drainages. Any person may see the environmental damage about to take place. We are but a rainstorm away.

The application of law to these two sites along with the twenty more discovered to date should be the same as if this was mining, timber harvest or grading for a vineyard.

Where is our help?

Butte County Supervisor Chairman Bill Connelly