It’s that time of year when a potent, skunk-like aroma permeates the Yuba County foothills, causing annoyed neighbors to call Code Enforcement.

Though complaints keep Code Enforcement busy year-round, September and October are prime harvest months for marijuana plants grown outdoors. Just Monday, with four inspection warrants, more than 730 plants were found to be out of compliance with the county’s ordinance, Code Enforcement manager Jeremy Strang said.

Yuba County adopted a marijuana ordinance in 2012 and it has been modified a few times, Strang said. The ordinance allows for six plants to be cultivated indoors. No outdoor growing is permitted. Strang said of all the inspections his department makes, maybe 1 percent of those are in compliance. Of the roughly 99 percent of marijuana growers out of compliance, Strang said about half the time there is voluntary compliance when it comes to removing plants when caught in violation.

“I guess it’s amazing that people just choose not to follow the rules,” Strang said.

He said there is a dividing line between what Code Enforcement and law enforcement does as it relates to marijuana regulations: Code Enforcement does not seize marijuana and does not raid gardens–it seeks civil inspection warrants, inspects properties for possible violations, and issues an abatement order if there is a violation. If there’s criminal action to be taken, law enforcement – like Yuba County Sheriff’s Office – issues the criminal search warrant and seizes any criminal property. Code Enforcement does not make arrests.

The recurring trend, Strang said, is the distinct growing style found in the foothills. Code Enforcement consistently finds hoop-style greenhouses with running generators, gas cans near generators, and long runs of extension cords – all built without permits or inspections.

“Most often times, it’s done in such a way that it creates fire hazards to the public,” Strang said.

This time of year, outdoor or greenhouse-grown plants mature and becomes easier to see and smell. But plants inside homes and other undercover grows cultivate well into winter, he said.

“The bigger push does exist through September and October and depending on the weather, could go into November,” Strang said.

Marijuana is the second most common case Code Enforcement handles, behind vehicle and ahead of visual blight cases. In fiscal year 2017-18, the department closed 221 marijuana cases with another 248 still active.

“Our job here is to educate the public on what the Board adopts,” Strang said. “With marijuana, the ordinance has not changed. The public should be aware of what is allowed and not allowed. It would be helpful if they followed the ordinance. That’s the goal – to gain compliance.”

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