Butte County cannabis laws

The following summary of Butte County cannabis laws is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, consult an attorney.

Clashes between medical cannabis patients and local authorities are not uncommon in Butte County. One of the more interesting cases involved a medical cannabis patient named David Williams, who in 2005 was forced to rip up all but 12 plants growing at his home or face arrest by Butte County sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Hancock. The working theory at the time in Butte County (and many other jurisdictions) was that members of a medical cannabis collective must actively partipate in cultivation for the plants grown in their names to be lawful.

That legal theory began to unravel in 2007 after Williams filed suit against Butte County, claiming the forced destruction of the plants amounted to unreasonable search and seizure and a violation of due process. When the county filed a demurrer before trial, the judge rejected county’s arguments and allowed the complaint to stand. “…It appears that, contrary to the stated policy of the County, the legislature intended collective cultivation of medical marijuana would not require physical participation in the gardening process by all members of the collective, but rather would permit that some patients would be able to contribute financially, while others performed the labor and contributed the skills and ‘know-how.'” The judge also rejected the county’s contention that Williams’ only option under state cannabis laws was to raise a criminal defense after his arrest.

With substantial legal help from Americans for Safe Access, the Williams case led to a 2009 appellate court ruling that denied all of the county’s claims. The principle that active participation in the cultivation of medical cannabis is not required of all collective members got another boost from ASA’s legal team in 2012 when the California Supreme Court denied review of the Jackson case.


Cannabis dispensaries in Butte County

In January 2010, Butte County supervisors passed Ordinance 4013, a 45-day moratorium prohibiting medical cannabis dispensaries from operating in the unincorporated areas of the county. In February 2010, Ordinance 4015 extended the moratorium for another 22 months and 15 days.

Medical cannabis dispensaries were banned permanently in Butte County with the passage of Ordinance 4037 in October 2011. Faced with aggressive local and federal law enforcement, most dispensaries in the county had already closed down, according to this KQED blog post.

Cannabis cultivation in Butte County

In May 2011, the Butte County Board of Supervisors passed Ordinance 4029, which banned cultivation of medical cannabis on parcels of less than a half-acre in size. The 40-page cannabis law also set for detailed requirements for growers on larger parcels, including grower registration and fees, a ban on growing within 1,000 feet of schools or other “sensitive uses,” setbacks, fencing and other requirements.

Butte County Citizens for Compassionate Use responded by filing a petition for referendum, and in November 2011 supervisors chose to place Ordinance 4029 before voters as Measure A on the June 2012 Butte County ballot. The marijuana cultivation ballot measure was defeated by a wide margin, with “no” votes from 55 percent of county voters.

On February 26, 2013, supervisors enacted new “restrictions on cultivation of medical marijuana” in the form of Ordinance 4051. It incorporates much of the language from the 2011 ordinance, with some modifications recommended by supervisors and a local task force.