CONCORD -- The owner of a legal backyard medical marijuana grow operation spoke in his defense Tuesday, saying he has cultivated pot in his backyard for more than three years without any hassles and is not sure why a neighbor is complaining now.
"I feel like I'm marked as a criminal," the 24-year-old said in front of his home. "I'm not out for the violence, I'm not out for the streets; I'm out to help people."
A neighbor earlier this month discovered pot plants in the backyard and took her complaints to a TV news outlet and then to the City Council. The feud began a citywide discussion on whether the city should restrict medical marijuana operations to indoors.
City leaders, including Mayor Ron Leone and Vice Mayor Bill Shinn, have indicated support for a ban on outdoor growth, heeding the concerns of neighbors who fear the grow operation is an invitation to crime.
But the Concord man, who did not wish to be identified, said he has not had a problem until after the news crew came to his house. On Saturday, the man said he woke up to his dog barking and found two people in his backyard, apparently trying to steal pot plants. He chased them away but did not call police, though a neighbor who heard the commotion did.
"Now they are making me a target," said the Concord High School graduate, who plans to install surveillance cameras around his home.
The man inherited the home in 2009 after the death of his grandfather,
In speaking to the City Council during public comment Tuesday, the man said moving his marijuana inside could open him up to a home invasion robbery. He asked that city leaders include him in the discussion and come to some sort of understanding.
City Attorney Mark Coon has issued an internal legal memo to council members about laws regarding medical marijuana and steps other jurisdictions have taken to limit where cultivation can take place.
The town of Moraga has banned outdoor marijuana cultivation. Currently, Concord has a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries but no ordinances regulating growing medical marijuana in or around homes.
Leone said Wednesday he wants city staff investigate how to address issues regarding the smell in the area and possible crime and violence growing pot outdoors could attract.
"If there's an ordinance that would protect our citizens by having people grow it indoors, I think we need to look at it," he said.
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.