May 122015

More than $1 million in cannabis cultivation fines were on Tuesday’s agenda for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, but the total was reduced to $159,000 after the board navigated through several split votes and failed motions.

Tuesday’s special meeting was the seventh set of appeal hearings scheduled since the county’s growing ban took effect in early 2014. Citations are issued for violations to both Prop. 215 patient-growers and to property owners, although the board has wrestled repeatedly with the issue of whether property owners “caused or contributed” to the cultivation of medical marijuana.

One of the appeals granted Tuesday was for Kong Meng Lee, a Southern California resident who had previously sold the property where 95 plants were seized last year. Lee was represented by Fresno attorney Brenda Linder. The lone “no” vote came from Supervisor Andreas Borgeas.

One other appellant didn’t fare as well. Gilbert Lopez, represented by attorney Sam Salhab, reportedly allowed another person (who wasn’t cited) to grow medical cannabis on an adjacent parcel. Deputies seized 800 plants during a “compliance check” after Lopez gave them permission to gain access through a locked gate. Salhab said Lopez, a decorated war veteran, was expecting to receive only a “brick” of medical cannabis as part of the arrangement, and was surprised to see how many plants were being grown. Supervisors voted 4-1, with Debbie Poochigian dissenting, to fine Lopez $80,000, or one-tenth of $800,000.

The only unanimous vote involved a husband and wife who were cited for the plants found in one of three greenhouses found on their property. Fresno County sheriff’s personnel told supervisors that two other growers took “foot bail” (ran away) and could not be located. Bouathong Saysamongdy was fined $79,000, but his wife Kaysone’s appeal was granted. Their son, who translated into English for the couple, said his family could not afford to pay the fine even after it was reduced.

Fresno County cannabis fine appeals — May 12, 2015. (View on county website.)

Item Start time Appellant name(s) Appeal Vote Plants Fine amount
1 0:00 Kong Meng Lee Granted 4-1^ 95 N/A
2 22:35 Gilbert Lopez Denied 4-1* 800 $80,000
3 56:15 Bouathong Saysamongdy Denied 5-0 79 $79,000
3 56:15 Kaysone Saysamongdy Granted 5-0 79 N/A

^ Dissent ‐ Borgeas
* Dissent ‐ Poochigian

Apr 102015

Faced with opposition from Prop. 215 patients, the Fresno City Council voted down a cannabis cultivation ordinance to allow limited indoor growing. Thursday’s 4-3 vote represented an about-face from the March 26 hearing, where the council voted 5-2 to approve the ordinance. The measure would have allowed patients to grow up to four plants indoors after securing a “special permit” from the city. Under Fresno Ordinance 2014-20, all growing is prohibited. While Fresno Cannabis Association [read more …]

Mar 262015

The Fresno City Council voted Thursday to permit the indoor-only cultivation of up to four medical cannabis plants, a slight change of course from the zero-tolerance ban it passed last year. UPDATE: Fresno City Council balks at cannabis ordinance The ordinance was brought forth by council President Oliver Baines III, who chaired a medical marijuana subcommittee that met with stakeholders last May. At that time, medical cannabis patients expressed serious reservations about the four-plant limit [read more …]

Mar 182015

Fresno County supervisors voted Tuesday to uphold $477,000 in fines imposed against medical cannabis patients and property owners, while granting one property owner’s appeal. The vote was more symbolic than substantive, as many of the patients cited have either left the county or lack the ability to pay. Yet Tuesday’s hearings highlighted the fine-centric approach adopted by Fresno County, as well as the plight of non-resident property owners who get cited right along with the [read more …]

Mar 122015

Title: Fresno County Cannabis CircusStart Time: 9 a.m.Date: Tuesday, March 17, 2015Location: Fresno County Hall of Records, 3rd Floor, 2281 Tulare St., FresnoDescription: Fresno County supervisors will pull out their rubber stamps to approve cannabis cultivation fines totaling $1.5 million against seven Prop. 215 patient-growers AND the owners of the property where the plants were grown. The smallest fine is $67,000; the largest is $800,000. Although the facts vary in each case, these leftovers from [read more …]

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Mar 112015

A lawsuit challenging Fresno County’s cannabis cultivation ban on environmental grounds is nearing its final destination, with hearing set for April 30 in Fresno County Superior Court. The trial notebook shown below contains all the pleadings in the lawsuit filed against the County of Fresno by Michael S. Green, a medical cannabis patient and advocate. The suit alleges that the county violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when its cannabis cultivation ban was enacted [read more …]