Commentary: By R.E. Graswich

It’s not everyday you see state bureaucrats run circles around their colleagues in California’s counties and cities. But that’s what’s happened in the arena of medical marijuana.

As the state moves toward regulation of the billion-dollar cannabis industry, numerous counties and cities have fled in the opposite direction. They have passed bans and in some cases risked voter anger by trying to turn the clock back on cannabis.

Two extreme examples can be found in rural Northern California, in Butte and Nevada counties.

In Butte County, supervisors passed two anti-marijuana ordinances in January — one that contradicted new state laws, another that short-circuted due process.

Both ordinances brought howls of protest from voters, who organized and gathered signatures to place opposing measures on the June ballot. Once the supervisors realized the signature drives would qualify, they decided to put the issues on the June ballot themselves.

The first item is Butte's so-called “Right to Farm” ordinance. Here, county supervisors reversed existing language and suddenly claimed that cannabis cultivation is not an agricultural enterprise — despite state law specifically stating marijuana cultivation is an ag operation.

The second item “streamlined” the ability of Butte County law enforcement to move against cultivators. The ordinance eliminates a 72-hour “notice to abate” process for growers accused of breaking the law. Now law enforcement can go straight to the citation — where alleged violators pay $500 per day once a ticket is issued. No delays for re-inspections, though administrative hearings are still allowed.

Voters will have their say on both matters in Butte County on June 7.

In Nevada County, supervisors voted to ban outdoor cultivation in January. They placed a measure supporting the ban on the June ballot. The language was framed so even if voters reject the outdoor cultivation ban in June, it will continue as an emergency ordinance in Nevada County.

What prompts these decisions and more than 300 cultivation bans in California — while the State Legislature works to regulate the product? Difficult to say, as each jurisdiction is unique. But fear and ignorance might be two good places to start.