CONCORD -- Growing pot outdoors is no longer an option for medical marijuana patients and caregivers.

Despite pleas from medical marijuana users, the City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to ban the cultivation of medical marijuana outdoors.

Council members said while they understand the medical benefits of marijuana, the risks to public safety were too great.

"It's up to the council to do a balancing act and weigh what is good for all in the community," said Councilman Ron Leone. "My chief concern that I have is safety."

City Attorney Mark Coon, who recommended the ban, said the city would begin enforcing it in two to three months after warning people who currently grow medical marijuana in their backyards. The ban will be enforced by city code enforcement officers responding to citizen complaints.

It restricts growing medical pot to inside occupied residential units. Under the ordinance, any pot grown indoors cannot be seen from any public place, such as a sidewalk.

The ban would expand the city's regulations on medical marijuana. The council banned pot dispensaries in 2005.

All but one of the 13 residents who spoke at the meeting Tuesday asked the council to reconsider the ordinance. Several residents told members they have grown medical marijuana in their backyards without any trouble, and have followed state law.

State voters decriminalized medical marijuana for qualified patients and caregivers with the passage of The Compassionate Use Act in 1996.

"It's a solution for a problem that doesn't exist," said Wendy Hershey.

Resident Vic Pinto was the only resident who urged council to approve the ban.

"If there isn't some restriction put on it, then this (city) becomes a magnet," he said.

The issue was first brought to the council last year, when a resident in the Dana Estates neighborhood complained about a neighbor growing pot in his backyard. That neighbor, Chris Olsen, said Tuesday he plans to file a lawsuit against the city.

City officials have said nothing in state law guarantees a person the right to grow medical marijuana outside.

Councilman Edi Birsan attempted to amend the ordinance to require it to be neighborhood complaint driven, and also asked the council to direct that city staff provide a report on medical marijuana dispensaries so the council could reconsider its ban on them.

Both motions failed for lack of a second. Birsan then "reluctantly" voted to approve the ordinance.

David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.

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