Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday extended a ban on growing marijuana in unincorporated areas of the county for roughly a month, but stopped short of the more than 10-month extension requested by county planners.

An ordinance banning the cultivation, manufacturing, laboratory testing and distribution of medical marijuana while zoning officials study the impact of such activities took effect April 12 and was set to expire Friday.

A four-fifths vote of the board was necessary to grant an extension. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was in Sacramento Tuesday, leaving each of the remaining supervisors in a position to block the renewal.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said a one-month ban was preferable to having no regulation in place.

“This is a bit of a thread-the-needle issue for me today,” Kuehl said before joining the 4-0 vote to extend the ban.

The county has banned medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas since 2011, using its zoning laws to enforce the prohibition.

The ban on cultivation and related activities was suggested in February by Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who said then that growing cannabis increases trespassing, burglary and violent crime.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, who once supported the use of medical marijuana, told her colleagues that Tuesday’s vote was also a hard issue for her.

“I do know that we need to have the safety and security of our neighborhoods,” Solis said.

Many advocates spoke out against renewing the ban, saying patients who need the drug to control pain, manage seizures or cope with glaucoma and other health issues are being forced into an expensive black market.

“The only thing that this ban has gone and done is re-ignited the black market here in the Antelope Valley,” said Greg Hernandez, a Lake Los Angeles resident.

Others said medical marijuana provided a safe alternative to addictive pharmaceuticals prescribed for pain.

David Cunningham, who fractured his back while working on a film set years ago, said he was ultimately put on morphine to try and control the pain, but then “your kidneys start failing and your liver takes a hit.”

“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do any other drugs,” Cunningham said, telling the board that using marijuana oil has allowed him to cut down on other pain meds.

County planners warned that not extending the ban could lead to unregulated cultivation that “may cause irreparable harm to the physical appearance, condition and character of the area, may impact water supplies and/or water quality and may negatively impact the health, safety and welfare of the general public,” in a way that could lead to “an irreversible incompatibility of land uses,” according to board documents.

A mother who has a child with a brain tumor and advocates for the use of medical marijuana spoke out against the ban.

Don’t “look at this as just a stoner drug that gets people high. It is truly much more than that,” said Tracy Ryan, founder and CEO of CannaKids.

Both Kuehl and Solis said they believed change would come in November, when voters will consider legalizing marijuana.

“I don’t think that this board as constituted is going to agree to release a ban,” Kuehl said, but “the items on the ballot in November have a pretty good chance of passing.”

Two new members will also be elected to the board, as Antonovich and Supervisor Don Knabe are termed out at the end of the year.

— City News Service 

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