May 232012

What’s in a name? More specifically, when does a bunch of medical marijuana growers turn into a collective?

The question arises because Tulare County has filed suit against “five people in a medical marijuana collective” who are accused of violating the county’s 2009 cultivation law. Under that medical marijuana ordinance, collectives and cooperatives must operate in a commercial or manufacturing zone, Lewis Griswold reports in the Fresno Bee.

The county’s ordinance states collectives must grow plants “within a secure, locked, and fully enclosed structure,” the Bee reports. What it failed to mention is that two or more growers can be called a “collective” under the county’s ordinance, even if they’re just growing for their own use. This is similar to the overbroad definition used in similar ordinances banning collectives and dispensaries, including Fresno County’s.

Porterville Recorder coverage

The Tulare County lawsuit states that the county’s letters were ignored by the defendants and the property owner, all of whom have Hispanic surnames. The story does not say whether those letters were sent in Spanish, not that the county is obliged to make such allowances.

What’s most interesting is that the county is forging ahead despite a decided lack of case authority for its position. Like Fresno County, Tulare County requires licenses for medical cannabis cultivation and also restricts where marijuana may be grown. But government-issued licenses for collectives and dispensaries violate federal law, according to an appellate court decision in Pack v. Long Beach, one of several pivotal cases under review by the California Supreme Court. Another case that’s more favorable to Prop. 215 patients also is headed to the Supreme Court, this one out of Lake Forest. Stay tuned…

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