CONCORD -- The Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to ban outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana, moving the controversial ban a step closer to becoming city law.
The 4-0 vote, with Ernesto Avila absent, is a recommendation to the City Council, which has the final say. The majority of the council indicated support for the ban at a meeting in December.
State voters decriminalized medical marijuana for qualified patients and caregivers with the passage of The Compassionate Use Act in 1996. But City Attorney Mark Coon told commissioners on Wednesday nothing in the law guarantees a person the right to grow medical pot outside.
Commissioners showed support for a model used in Moraga, and rejected a model used by the city of Elk Grove. The former model is a simple ban on outdoor medical marijuana cultivation, while the latter includes a number of restrictions which commissions said would limit access to the point where it might violate state law.
The ban would restrict the growing of medical pot to the indoors of residential units. If passed, city code enforcement officers would enforce the ban and respond to citizen complaints, Coon said.
In her support of the ban, resident Francis Ough-Price, a mother of two teenagers, referenced a triple killing on Tuesday in the Sonoma County city of Forestville. Three men were shot to death after a marijuana deal went bad, according to news reports.
"Where there's drugs, there are guns," Ough-Price said. "I don't want my children to be in danger."
"Teens my age and younger are hopping fences to steal marijuana," high school student Travis Legault added.
Pat Hogoboom, a veteran and a cancer survivor who grows medical marijuana outdoors, characterized the ban as "un-American."
"I don't take it because I enjoy it," he said. "I take it because I hurt."
The city banned medical marijuana dispensaries in 2005, but did not consider banning outdoor operations until last year, when residents in the Dana Estates neighborhood complained about a neighbor's outdoor crop of marijuana plants.
The neighbor, Chris Olsen, did not attend Wednesday's hearing but this week threatened to take legal action against the city if the ban is approved.
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.