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Rancher Rob Brown scoured parts of his 300-acre property for illegal marijuana plants and growers in Kelseyville, Calif.

Gina Ferazzi • Los Angeles Times via MCT,

County divided over pot growing as a human right

  • Article by: Joe Mozingo
  • Los Angeles Times
  • August 18, 2014 - 5:21 PM

– Transients occupy the old cottages where vacationing families once came to fish and swim. Rotted docks and pier pilings litter the lake’s shoreline.

But across the water in the Lake County seat of Lakeport, civic and business leaders talk of bringing back tourism, of planting more vineyards instead of weed. They are tired of the thuggish out-of-towners, the stream diversions and the violent crime.

In 2013, residents successfully pushed county supervisors to ban pot growing on parcels smaller than an acre and limit growers to six plants.

Pot growers organized a June ballot referendum to rescind the law, losing by fewer than 500 votes out of 15,000 cast.

Now those who hope to preserve marijuana cultivation are taking their case to the voters again — in the form of competing initiatives.

A coalition of growers and activists is pushing a plan that it said would promote reasonable, regulated and limited growing of medical cannabis. Grower Ron Kiczenski said their measure would ensure that a few established farmers dominate, keeping prices high and most residents out of the market. His proposal would establish marijuana growing as a human right.

Opponents of both are gearing up for battle. In this place of beauty and poverty, residents in November will sort out the debate at the ballot box.

Michael Horner, a marijuana activist, explained the initiative his group, the Emerald Unity Coalition, is pushing. By making it legal to grow up to 48 plants in Lake County, he said, the measure is about responsibility, environmental friendliness, and access to safe, clean medicine. Under his initiative, he said, a marijuana enforcement division would keep growers in line.

Rob Brown is the county supervisor leading efforts to push out the marijuana industry. “It’s not the marijuana, it’s the culture that comes with it,” he said. “They want to smoke their weed and make their money and not have to work.”

Kiczenski’s ballot initiative would allow anyone to grow any plant for their own use — including coca leaves and opium poppies.

But by limiting people with less than an acre to four plants, Kiczenski said, Horner’s measure would keep most of Lake County out of the market. Kiczenski said the right-to-grow initiative is the next epic battle.

“What are people supposed to do up here?” he asked. “There’s no work. Half the people grow.”

© 2014 Star Tribune