When California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) in 1996, Martinez voters overwhelmingly agreed with more than 70 percent approval.
Soon after that initiative became law, the Martinez City Council adopted a medical marijuana ordinance that regulated -- but allowed -- the siting of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city limits.
The ordinance recognized the need of sick people to have access to the medication they require, but it also recognized the importance that dispensaries not negatively impact the residents and our neighborhoods.
Three years ago, the Public Safety Committee of the Martinez City Council studied the possibility of amending the existing medical marijuana ordinance. They reviewed the ordinances of many other California cities and held almost a year of public workshops.
Emotions ran high on both sides of the issue with advocates promising lucrative tax benefits to the city, and opponents the demise of our culture and society. However, it was finally decided not to move forward in amending the ordinance and leaving the initial law intact as adopted back in 1997.
As of today, there are no medical marijuana dispensaries in Martinez.
Over the last few months another issue dealing with medical marijuana has come to the forefront of public discussion, and that is the outdoor cultivation of the marijuana plant.
Current California state law says that if you are a registered medical marijuana patient, you may cultivate six mature and 13 immature plants. And, if you are a "caregiver," you may cultivate plants for your "patients."
If you are a caregiver for 10 patients, you are allowed to cultivate 60 mature and 130 immature plants, plus your own. This is a total of 66 mature and 143 immature plants.
Starting in the early fall of this year, several residents started reporting a very strong skunk-like aroma emanating from various homes throughout the city. Curious about the odor, some did their own investigation and discovered literal marijuana farms in the backyards from where odors were coming.
Shocked to see the magnitude of the grow operations, many residents contacted the police department and the City Council. The police investigated and determined that every single growing operation reported was entirely legal and operating under the guidelines of current state law in California.
A few residents emailed me photographs and I was amazed by the number of plants. One in particular showed a very nice-looking backyard pool surrounded by 10 gallon buckets of almost mature marijuana plants. Another resident invited me to view her neighbor's "farm" from her bedroom window.
Most of these residents did not care if their neighbors grew a few plants for their personal use, but the size and scope of these large outdoor growing operations were impacting the neighborhood. The air reeked of the smell of skunk day and night. Some growers even burned the stems once the plant buds had been harvested.
Many neighbors were concerned about their safety and security with such a lucrative crop being cultivated in their neighborhood.
The city of Concord recently experienced the same issues and eventually adopted an ordinance that outlaws the cultivation of marijuana outdoors.
Under current state law it is not possible to prohibit the growing of medical marijuana for personal use, but we are allowed to control it under land use and zoning policies.
Yes, federal law does not allow the cultivation or use of marijuana for any use; however the federal agencies have stated that they will not enforce the laws in cases of medical use of marijuana. Also, state and local agencies cannot enforce federal laws.
When this situation came to my attention a few months ago, I reactivated the Public Safety Committee and charged them with exploring the possibility of enacting a medical marijuana cultivation control ordinance.
They are reviewing ordinances adopted by cities all over the state, including Concord, Clayton and Moraga. They have held two meetings and will likely make a recommendation to the full City Council in the spring.
I certainly understand the need for sick people to have access to the medication that will help them to survive and have a greater quality of life. However, I draw the line when neighbors and neighborhoods are negatively impacted.
Schroder is the mayor of Martinez. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.