Fresno County To Consider Ending Its Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ban for Small Gardens

UPDATE 12/2 – A Tale of Two Counties: Fresno Balks But El Dorado Listens

December 1, 2014 – At a meeting tomorrow morning, Fresno county—the only county in California that has enacted a total ban on the cultivation of medical marijuana (indoors and out)—is considering allowing a 12-plant exemption to their ban, as well as amending fines and administrative procedures around their ordinance.

Sometime after 9 AM, the Fresno Board of Supervisors will receive a report from County Counsel Daniel Cederborg that recommends including an exemption to administrative fines for the cultivation of 12 or fewer plants per parcel. Citing nearby Kern County’s ordinance allowing 12 plants or less, Cederborg wrote that the Fresno Sheriff’s Office staff had been contacted and “does not believe such an exemption would materially hinder their work in the field or enforcement of the ordinance.”

The report goes on to say that, “Several Board members have suggested altering the administrative fine amount contained in the current ordinance.” It offers several options, including lowering the existing fine of $1000/day to $500 or some other figure; and providing for a “progressive administrative fine structure” e.g. a $100 per-plant fine upon determination of a violation, and a $500 per-plant fine for ever day after the deadline given in the notice to abate. Upping the fines for successive violations, and enacting a cap on the total fines are also presented as options. Another option would clarify factors affecting a landowners’ designation as a “responsible party” to the ordinance’s rules.

“We applaud Fresno’s reasoned move towards allowing at least small, personal medical marijuana gardens, and to amending its exorbitant fines,” said CalNORML deputy director Ellen Komp. “These changes, if enacted, will allow the neediest patients more options as we move towards better regulation of collective gardens at the state level.”

One optional amendment in Cederborg’s report would designate a hearing officer to hear appeals to abatement notices or fines, instead of the Board of Supervisors. The Fresno Bee has editorialized that such an officer should be an impartial retired judge.

The Board has expressed that they are feeling overburdened by the number of appeals that have been brought since the ordinance passed. In two cases, they moved to vacate the fines that were levied after patients challenged them. In one case, an 80-year-old blind man was fined because medical marijuana was grown on his property. According to the Fresno Cannabis Association, at least eight more appeals are in the pipeline.

The meeting will take place at 9AM at 2281 Tulare St., Fresno tomorrow (Tuesday, December 2).

Tomorrow afternoon, El Dorado county supervisors will consider repealing their medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, as a step towards a possible cultivation ban. That meeting will begin at 2PM, with the item heard around 3PM. Read more.

Santa Cruz county has also moved to tighten its cultivation ordinance. A local group has formed to petition the Board for reasonable regulations allowing collective gardens.

Fresno’s cultivation ban has survived a court challenge from the Fresno ACLU; a second challenge involving a 72-year-old woman who lost an eye and a leg in an accident is currently under appeal.

So far, the California Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of cultivation bans.

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