Monday night, July 10, the Johnston Town Council passed an ordinance to regulate home grows. It went into effect Monday night. The ordinance could have a devastating effect on patients and their caregivers. We are currently suing the town of Smithfield and are discussing the Johnston ordinance with the ACLU. Keep in mind that an ordinance is NOT a criminal law. As long as you are within the limits of the RI MMj Act, then you are not subject to arrest. Towns have the power to issue zoning citations which could result in fines if not appealed. The towns and the police do not know where the grows are unless you or someone else has told them or they have noticed an odor, etc. The Health Dept. and DBR do not and cannot provide the towns or police information indicating where the legal individual MMj grows are. If you are a patient or caregiver in Johnston who will be adversely affected by this ordinance and think you may be interested in possible legal action against the Town of Johnston, contact joanne@RIpatients.org or call the ACLU at 401. 831.7171 for a confidential discussion.
The Council amended the proposed ordinance to make it clear that patients and caregivers will have to apply for special permits in addition to zoning certificates and building, electrical permits or plumbing permits (if such renovations are made). Here is a summary of the new ordinance.
New Requirements for Patients and Caregiver Grows Both patients and caregivers could still grow but only in their own residences, which are defined as “mmj facilities”. They can only grow if they submit to fire department inspections, building department inspections (where appropriate) and obtain a zoning certificate and a special permit from the town. Renters must provide notarized statements from their landlords granting permission to grow. Grows, now called “facilities” will not be allowed unless they meet following requirements:
security alarm system (no specifics)
Two means of egress
No basement grows
Grow Area cannot be within ten (10) feet of a heating or other ignition source such as an electric, propane, natural gas or oil fired furnace or as required per manufacturer specifications
“Proper” ventilation to mitigate the risk of mold
Carbon filters required to reduce odors.
Smoke alarms/detectors installed in accordance with State Fire Code and/or to the satisfaction of the Fire Department
Comment: Many home grows will likely be prohibited due to “no basement” rule. We don’t think such restrictions apply to other fire risks, like dryers. The Fire Department can require more than the state code requires. Growers could be required to put in hard wired expensive smoke alarm systems. “Proper” ventilation is in the eye of the beholder. There are no specifics about security systems so we don’t know what they may require. Restricting patients and caregivers to grow in their residences and not in leased spaces could shut down some grows and force patients to grow in homes that are inappropriate. One reason patients and caregivers rent spaces to grow is because of children in the home. Other reasons are safety and lack of space. We are concerned that patient and caregivers will feel pressured to move grows out of basements and leased spaces and into crowded homes with less than ideal conditions. Patients who lease space because their landlords are not supportive will have no recourse in Johnston.
By requiring special permits, the town is holding patients and caregiver home grows to standards more appropriate for large commercial or retail operations. We have no idea how many grows will be prohibited as a result. Special permit requirements are:
1500 feet from churches, schools, park, playground, youth center, day care or where location where youth congregate. The town can deny a special permit if it determines there would be an adverse effect even if the “facility” is more than 1500 feet away.
1000 feet from town lines
2,000 feet from compassion or cultivation centers
Must be “sufficiently buffered” so it will not adversely affect surrounding residential uses.
Exterior of building must be consistent with neighborhood to prevent “blight” and a decline in property values.
The Police and Town Officials Can Enter Homes
The ordinance specifically defines inspectors to include police and gives them the right to enter homes without a warrant. We believe that we still have a Constitution in this country and it includes the 4th amendment. We don’t believe this provision is legal and are working with the ACLU.
“Right of Entry for Inspection. A Town Inspector or Building Official may enter to inspect any Medical Marijuana Facility if there is a reasonable belief that any provision of this ordinance or the Medical Marijuana Act has, is, or will be violated.”
No smell. No noise. Must be imperceptible from the outside Here’s another Johnston innovation:
“That the cultivation and growth of Marijuana could in no way perceptible outside the Medical Marijuana Facility including. This includes, but is not limited to, odors or noises related to the cultivation and growth of Marijuana.”
Comment: DBR regulations already require carbon filters in all grows. Johnston is banning, not just odor, but noises, too. Does this mean the whir of fans, air conditioners? We haven’t heard of plants making lots of noise. This prohibition “is not limited to smell and noise”. Could also include…….??
Ban on trying to enhance THC Here’s a unique prohibition:
“That the Medical Marijuana Facility is not being used and could not be used to enhance the effects of the Tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) in the Cardholder’s useable or unusable Medical Marijuana.”
Comment: We tried but we don’t know what this means.
Compressed flammable gas prohibited for “cultivation and growth”
Comment: Growers use CO2 for growing but it is not flammable so we don’t know what they are talking about.
Making Safe Concentrates – Prohibited Another unique provision:
“That the Medical Marijuana Facility is not being used and could not be used to extract any chemicals or oils from the Cardholder’s useable or unusable marijuana.”
Comment: Extracts using compressed combustible gas (butane) is already illegal under state law. The ordinance goes further to prohibit extracts that are effective medicine and are safe to make.
Confidentiality Requires applications to be kept confidential and sealed. Does not mention specifics. No mention of citations and appeals and how they will be confidential. No mention of the state law that imposes 1000 fine and possible 6 months in jail for anyone who violates a MMj cardholder’s confidentiality.
Compassion centers, cultivators and emporiums (vape lounges) would be allowed by special permit. Co-ops are not mentioned in the ordinance. That likely means that non-residential co-ops would not be allowed because the state law requires zoning approval. Residential co-ops do not require local approval according to the MMj Act.
Violations Here’s a new one: “A violation of this Ordinance shall result in the loss of legal status in the Town of Johnston as a patient or caregiver cardholder in accordance with RIGL 21-28.6. All inspectors, officials, and/or Fire Marshalls, shall be required to report a violation of the provisions of this section to the Rhode Island Department of Health”.
Comment: The town has no authority to revoke anyone’s legal MMj status. DoH administers the MMj Act according to the state law, not local town ordinances.
Effective Date July 10, 2017. The ordinance is already in effect.