Superior Court Judge Paul Vortmann in California's Tulare County ruled Aug. 11 that a cannabis collective cannot operate on land zoned for agriculture, dismissing a property owner's arguments. "In this state, marijuana has never been classified as a crop or horticultural product," Vortmann wrote. Cannabis is a controlled substance, the ruling stated, adding that "the court finds as a matter of law that growing marijuana...is not an agricultural use of property."
Tulare County counsel Kathleen Bales-Lange, whose office sued a property owner and collective on behalf of the county Board of Supervisors, said it's the first time a court has addressed whether medical cannabis can be an agricultural crop. Cannabis plants are "agricultural in nature" because they grow like any other crop, said attorney Brandon Ormonde, representing the property owner. In 2006, legalization advocate Jon Gettman made a splash with a report finding that cannabis was the nation's top cash crop at $35.8 billion a year, more than corn and wheat combined.
Nonetheless, cannabis is not recognized by the California Department of Food and Agriculture as a an agricultural commodity. No agricultural commissioner in the state—not even in Mendocino or Humboldt counties—lists it in annual crop reports. "We don't regulate or track marijuana at all and regard that as a law enforcement issue," said Steve Lyle, spokesman for the state agriculture agency. (Fresno Bee, Aug. 11)