SACRAMENTO — A challenge to Butte County’s medical marijuana growing laws has been rejected by a state appellate court.
A three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Sacramento issued the ruling Friday that the county law does not violate the equal protection clauses of the state and federal constitutions, or violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The plaintiffs, Donald Ehrsam, Raymond Sperry, Douglas Gunning and Gina Endler, brought the case to Butte County Superior Court in February 2015.
All have medical marijuana recommendations, and all have disabilities covered by the ADA.
They alleged that the county law violated the equal protection provisions by allowing people to grow different amounts of marijuana.
The code effectively limits each medical marijuana patient to 50 square feet of garden, and limits the number of 50-square-foot spaces by the size of the lot, with larger lot allowed more.
But an early version of the law the county began enforcing in January 2015 held that on lots smaller than a half-acre, the grow had to be indoors, in a building no larger than 120 square feet. It did not specify that the grow still could only be 50 square feet.
That was the basis of the constitutional challenge to the law.
The county responded that that was a “deliberate misreading” of the law.
The plaintiffs had also argued that the law violated the ADA through its provisions that the plot must be contiguous, preventing the placement of a path so someone confined to a wheelchair could tend the plants.
The county argued there was nothing in the law that prohibited configuration of the garden area with paths, and that the paths wouldn’t count against the 50-square-foot maximum.
The county further argued that the ADA did not apply to medical marijuana grows, because the act does not apply to activities forbidden by federal law, as marijuana growing is.
In May 2015, a local judge agreed with the county. The following month an appeal was filed.
Subsequently, the county amended the ordinance to clarify that indoor grows could only be 50 square feet inside the 120-square-foot building.
The appeals court contacted the principals in the suit, and both agreed the change eliminated the constitutional challenge. The plaintiffs pressed the ADA claim however.
Friday the appeals court agreed that the ADA did not apply to medical marijuana grows as they violate federal law. The court further affirmed there was nothing in the county law that would prohibit wheelchair paths or other alterations to accompany people with disabilities.