Cultivating Medical Marijuana in Sacramento
Spring has sprung and the time has come for everyone to plant their gardens. If you live in a residential zone in Sacramento, you most likely won’t be legally employing the sunshine to nourish your marijuana plants.
It has been totally illegal for a few years now to plant any cannabis outdoors or indoors in the County of Sacramento, This was all due to a ban passed by the County Board of Supervisors in 2010. No law prohibiting cultivation of cannabis existed in the City of Sacramento until November 2012 when the Sacramento City Council passed it’s own ban on growing marijuana outdoors. The City Council pushed it through quickly and it now exists in the form of Ordinance 2012-045.
This law states that it is illegal to grow cannabis outside, either in a residential zone or in a residential-use building. The only way to legally grow is to do it indoors by submitting a plan to the city, keep it under 400 feet, follow all the safety and lighting precautions, and then allow the city to inspect and approve it. It’s that simple! Perhaps on closer inspection, this process is far out of reach of the common Sacramentan.
So, the following is my attempt to lay out in a plain and straightforward manner the information I’ve gathered about cultivating cannabis in The City of Sacramento.
Step one: Hire an architect to draw your plans if you’re building a structure you will have to submit plans for the grow house to a public planner. If your refitting a room plans are not required but you must do it right because you will have to have it inspected..
Step two: Submit your plans to the public permit counter at 300 Richards Boulevard. Once they are approved, then you can begin construction of your new 400 square foot medicinal cannabis garden.
Step 3: After you’re finished, call for an inspection. The good news is it only takes a day to get the inspector out there. The lighting and electrical units will be inspected to ensure they meet all safety specifications, and a ventilation system must be in place to prevent outside odor from menacing the neighborhood.
It’s not clear if the city will be establishing a SMELL police force or just take a nosey neighbor’s word for it, but if someone claims that they smell it, you may have to shut the whole operation down. Also though it’s not clear how this will be enforced your legal grow must be done by patients with doctors recommendation
Any rumors people may have heard about the allowance of greenhouses are false. There was a push for a certain type of secure greenhouse at the council meeting, however, the current ordinance requires solid walls.
If your house is in a non-residential zone, you still can’t grow outdoors – by your living there, the house is in residential use. One could potentially concoct a way of growing on an empty lot, I suppose, in a non residential zone. That would probably require someone onsite for security. Again, far out of reach for the common patient. Imagine an elderly woman with cancer dealing with heavy pain, wanting to grow a plant for her own medicinal use. How is she supposed to deal with these regulations for a reasonable price, and just how are they consistent with the patient rights promised under Prop 215?
Meet Lana (not her real name but the conditions and numbers are very real). She is a 59-year-old cancer survivor who was a patient at a dispensary where I used to work. In 2009 she and her husband, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, grew eight plants in their backyard in the Pocket Area – four plants less than the legal limit per patient. Their grow did not bother their neighbors at all, and they were able to harvest enough medicine for the both of them for 2 years for under $800. Prior to that they were spending $500 a month on medicine from dispensaries, and this gave them each less than a gram a day. Growing their own Medicine saved these patients, on a fixed income, a total of $11,200 over a 2 year period. This was money directly put back into their pockets for food and other healthcare. Lana shared with me that she did not intend to grow this year, specifically because she did not want to get in trouble with the police.
This ordinance will make it much simpler for law enforcement to figure out whose grow is legal and illegal, because currently they are all illegal. I’m sure it’ll be easier to keep track of the very few patients, if any, that do file. Those patients who don’t file and are caught cultivating cannabis are subjecting themselves to misdemeanor criminal sanctions, civil actions, and administrative penalties, as well as civil penalties of $250.00 to $25,000.00 for each day the violation continues.
It does seem to be a gentrification of cannabis growing . I checked with an architect- plans would cost four to five grand to be drawn with lighting and electrical specs and professional construction would cost a few more thousand easily. Add in city fees, which I was unable to find the exact amount for (it’s apparently based on the particulars of the plans), but I was able to get confirmation that there are definitely fees, and we are approaching ten grand to create a legal cultivation spot. Now factor in the fact that indoor growing yields far way less actual medicine. Add up these numbers and you see cannabis grown legally is far more expensive than that which could be acquired at a dispensary.
So, let’s get a show of hands of how many people reading this are going to be able to grow legally in Sacramento. No one? Because that was pretty much how many people filed to grow legally according to my sources at the city.. Zero. Though the clones (baby marijuana plants) are flying off the shelves of the dispensaries locally, none of them will be grown in Sacramento – at least not legally.
I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist. However, it’s suspicious to me that the city manages to outlaw and overregulate ways to get cannabis as medicine ,unless you go to one of the 18 or so dispensaries and pay a four percent city tax on top of California sales tax. In Lana and her husband’s case, we are talking over $4000 per year.
If any of this bothers you, my only recommendation would be to call the Mayor and the council member from your district. You could even speak up and come into the city council meeting. But it appears the city is pretty steadfast in leaving things as they are, and we really won’t be seeing it on the agenda anytime soon.
If anyone decides to grow legally in the City of Sacramento I would love to document their process for a future article, the same goes for anyone paying fines or arrested for growing against the ordinance! Reach me on facebook as Ron Equality Mullins.
Disclosure: Medical cannabis Activist, former Dispensary Operator, Communications Chair for Safe Access Sacramento and Sacramento Supervisor of The Sacramento Stockton Modesto Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law.