"]ca: Chico police chief outlines proposed city response to medical marijuana

CA: CHICO POLICE CHIEF OUTLINES PROPOSED CITY RESPONSE TO MEDICAL MARIJUANA
mapinc/ 6/17/2011 / By Greg Welter, Staff Writer, Source: Chico Enterprise-Record

CHICO — If approved by the City Council in July, a medical marijuana ordinance will go into effect in Chico Aug. 5, allowing pot to be grown and processed in small quantities for personal medicinal use.

At a community meeting in south Chico Wednesday night, Police Chief Mike Maloney outlined what the city’s response will be to handling medical marijuana issues.

"First, the Police Department will attempt to assign the enforcement of most marijuana rules to other agencies," Maloney said.

He explained the proposed ordinance is more of a land-use issue than one that potentially involves criminal issues.

He noted the city’s code enforcement officers will most likely respond to complaints regarding the size of a marijuana grow, or reports that it is creating a nuisance, such as excessive odor or noise.

Initially, Maloney said, grows will be strictly limited to 50 square feet. There is no limit on the number of plants, as long as the grow is within the prescribed size.

Maloney fielded a couple of questions from residents concerned that the grow size is too small.

"We’re stepping into uncharted territory here, so we though this was a good starting place," he said. Mayor Ann Schwab, also attending the meeting, said the ordinance allows for marijuana dispensaries in Chico, where people can obtain pot for medicinal needs beyond what they are allowed or able to grow.

Maloney said code enforcers won’t be going around measuring every plot, but will do complaint-driven checks on the size, with the consent of the property owner.

If property owners don’t give consent, Maloney said the ordinance provides for alternative means of viewing a grow, including a search warrant.

If responses to complaints can be handled by code enforcement, and infractions are discovered, Maloney said it’s likely that a citation will be issued.

"In order to mitigate problems early, the code enforcement approach will be to cite early and cite often when violations are noted," Maloney said. "We want to handle issues on the lowest level possible, without getting police involved."

The ordinance also deals with more serious violations, which Maloney said could be handled as criminal activity. In those cases, he said, it’s likely that police officers will respond.

"If there is an urgent need, patrol officers will likely respond," Maloney said. "If the report suggests a large-scale failure to comply with land use regulations, officers from the Target team may respond, along with code enforcement personnel.

"If there is very obvious criminal sales, transportation or other illegal activity, the department’s street crimes unit may get involved."

Maloney said his department advises the following activities may indicate an illegal marijuana grow:

Excessive foot traffic at the location, 24 hours per day

Excessive number of visitors at the location staying for a very short period of time

Unusual encounters/exchanges between short-term visitors at or near the location.

Maloney admitted the most problematic part of the ordinance to enforce will be a clause that states grows will not be allowed, either indoors or out, if they adversely affect the health or safety of residents on nearby properties. He said those issues could involve mold, mildew, dust, glare from lighting, noise, odor and other impacts.

"For everyone that advocates the use of medical marijuana, there is probably an equal number who find it uncomfortable," Maloney said.

"A lot of communities have struggled with structures to deal with medical marijuana," Maloney said. "I can’t promise there won’t be hiccups."

MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.

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