Dec 292014
 

Fresno County adopted the first countywide cannabis ban in California in 2014, followed by the City of Fresno. Here’s a month-by-month breakdown.

January

In August 2013, Sheriff Margaret Mims asked Fresno County supervisors to adopt an ordinance with a 12-plant-per-parcel limit similar to Kern County’s. Supervisors upped the ante by pursuing a zero-tolerance cannabis cultivation ban, which passed 5-0 on January 7, 2014. They also approved a negative declaration claiming the cannabis ban, dubbed Ordinance 14-001, would have no environmental impacts. The keystone of the “new” ban — outdoor cultivation was banned three years earlier — were penalties of $1,000 per plant for violations.

Two days later, on January 9, the Fresno County Planning Commission held a public hearing on Ordinance T-88-369. Apparently designed as a cleanup bill of sorts, the ordinance deleted the county’s previous provisions for medical cannabis cultivation facilities. Fresno County’s previous ordinances — 12-004 and T-86-364 — prohibited dispensaries and outdoor cultivation of cannabis, and limited personal cultivation to a small number of industrial parcels. Nobody ever pulled the required business license, according to county staff, which isn’t surprising given that the previous ordinances created a de facto cannabis cultivation ban. The advisory Planning Commission voted 5-1 to recommend approval of the ordinance by the Board of Supervisors.

Passage of the Fresno County cannabis ban spawned an intense but short-lived referendum drive.

Fresno County referendum meme

Please share widely and quickly to help fight the Fresno County cannabis ban.

February

Fresno County supervisors approved Ordinance T-88-269 on February 4, 2014, after a single public hearing. Most ordinances receive two public hearings, but Ordinance T-88-369 amends the county’s Zoning Ordinance; in such instances, county staff told supervisors, a single vote was appropriate after Planning Commission review. The ordinance repealed a previous provision in the Zoning Ordinance, first enacted in 2011, that allowed indoor medical marijuana cultivation facilities to be established in certain industrial zones.

Diana Kirby, a longtime Fresno advocate for medical marijuana, filed suit against the county Feb. 24, claiming state law pre-empts local growing bans. She is represented by cannabis attorney Henry Wykowski of Oakland.

March

Using a one-two punch approach — and a CEQA exemption — the Fresno City Council adopted a fast-track cannabis cultivation ban. The council also appointed a medical marijuana subcommittee.

The city also adopted the $1,000-per-plant fines for violations found in the county ban. Also in March, Fresno County imposed fines totaling $73,000 against two growers — and against two property owners deemed to be “jointly and severally liable” for violating the cannabis ban.

April

The first legal challenge to the Fresno County growing ban was a court appeal of a $43,000 fine imposed against a Del Rey medical cannabis patient whose 43 plants were seized by sheriff’s deputies. The county also sought to collect the fine from the woman’s mother, who owned the rural property where the marijuana was grown.

Fresno Bee coverage.

A CEQA cannabis lawsuit was filed against Fresno County attacking its failure to follow the California Environmental Quality Act when reviewing the possible impacts of the marijuana cultivation ban.

May

Two medical cannabis patients — Joan Byrd and Susan Juvet — filed suit against both Fresno County and the City of Fresno with help from the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU cannabis lawsuit, which claimed state law pre-empts local growing bans, was widely reported.

Medical cannabis advocates filed suit May 8, 2014, to challenge the City of Fresno’s new growing ban. The petition for writ of mandate alleges the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to properly study the potential environmental impacts of the citywide growing ban. The CEQA cannabis lawsuit was filed by the Fresno Cannabis Association, an unincorporated association of medical cannabis patients.

Supervisors slashed a marijuana cultivation fine for an out-of-town property owner, leaving the tenant-grower on the hook for $27,000 of a $30,000 fine. The tenants were evicted shortly after deputies seized 30 plants at the Kerman property, which weighed in the property owner’s favor with supervisors.

On May 2, a Fresno County Superior Court judge stayed the collection of $43,000 in fines imposed in March until the appeals filed by two growers could be heard.

June

The Fresno Cannabis Association held its first fundraiser June 8 at Full Circle Brewery, with appearances by famed 420 comic Ngaio Bealum and local reggae faves The Green Machine.

060814-FCA_Smackdown

On June 13, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Carlos Cabrera sustains Fresno County’s demurrer to Diana Kirby’s pre-emption challenge and dismisses the case.

July

Supervisors reduced, but did not eliminate, a $26,000 fine imposed against a Squaw Valley property owner whose tenant was allegedly growing marijuana. The cannabis wasn’t discovered until a repossessed trailer was opened in Tulare County. A $99,000 fine was imposed against another grower, even though no plants were found on his Laton-area property when the citation was issued by Fresno sheriff’s deputies. The latter case is being appealed in Fresno County Superior Court.

The Fresno Cannabis Association conducted an online survey to gather input on Senate Bill 1262, which would have created a state agency to regulate medical cannabis. Survey results.

August

Fresno Cannabis Association sent a letter of opposition to SB 1262 to Central Valley lawmakers. Three FCA members traveled to the state Capitol to attend the annual lobbying day sponsored by Americans for Safe Access. The controversial bill passed the state Senate but failed to pass the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

SB1262-meme

Diana Kirby’s attorney files an appeal of Judge Cabrera’s dismissal of her case to the Fifth Appellate District on August 15.

September

Complaints about an April 19 concert by 420 band Berner in Woodward Park — some concertgoers were reportedly smoking cannabis — reached the office of Fresno City Council Member Lee Brand. In September, he introduced a new ordinance prohibiting the use of controlled substances on city property, including medical cannabis. Brand’s fellow council members didn’t back his play, however, so the proposal was effectively shelved.

041914-Berner

Fresno supervisors held a special meeting to consider 12 appeals of fines totaling more than $1.7 million. The contentious hearings featured appearances by several non-growing property owners and their attorneys, and several of the fines are under court appeal.

On Sept. 29, Judge Cabrera dismissed the lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

In Kings County, the Corcoran City Council votes to approve a total cultivation ban.

October

The ACLU attorneys representing Joan Byrd and Susan Juvet file notice of appeal of Judge Cabrera’s dismissal of their case to the Fifth Appellate District on October 27.

In Tulare County, the Porterville City Council approves an ordinance allowing small-scale cultivation, provided a city permit is obtained among other requirements.

November

Signs of progress: Fresno County withdraws the $43,000 fine it imposed against a medical cannabis patient who grew 43 plants at her mother’s home near Del Rey. The move was termed a tactical decision by the Fresno County Counsel’s office, which was defending its first appeal of the fines in Fresno County Superior Court. The fine’s withdrawal was formalized by board resolution in December. Phaeth Holapatiphone is represented by Fresno attorney Brenda Linder.

abc30 coverage:

Fresno County voters elected replacements for two longtime supervisors, Judy Case McNairy and Phil Larson, who supported the cannabis growing ban and earlier bans on dispensaries and outdoor cultivation. Their replacements — Buddy Mendes and Brian Pacheco, respectively — will join the board in January 2015.
Bee coverage.

December

The Board of Supervisors confirmed marijuana cultivation fines against 15 people (not all of them cannabis growers) totaling just under $1 million. In separate action, they voted to “stay the course” with the total growing ban and rejected a staff proposal to allow small-scale gardens. Blog post. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office reported to the board that more than 350 cannabis gardens had been destroyed, with more than 75 arrests.

Fresno Bee coverage

Fresno Bee preview story

abc30 coverage:

Dec 032014
 

Fresno County supervisors on Tuesday rejected a proposal to allow medical cannabis patients to grow their own medicine, even on a small-scale basis. The proposal was one of five suggestions put forth in a report from County Counsel Dan Cederborg after a long, hot summer of zero-tolerance enforcement by Fresno County sheriff’s deputies. All cultivation of medical marijuana, both indoors and outdoors, was prohibited by a total growing ban that took effect in February. Related [read more …]

Sep 132014
 
Slow Berner: Fresno City Council rejects new cannabis ban

A new cannabis ordinance that was proposed after a 4/20 celebration in Woodward Park got a cool reception at Thursday’s meeting of the Fresno City Council. Council Member Lee Brand proposed the new ordinance, which on paper prohibited the use of controlled substances on city property, including parks. Because medical marijuana didn’t fall into the exemption for people using prescription medications (cannabis patients receive recommendations from doctors, not prescriptions), cannabis patients would be effectively barred [read more …]

Aug 142014
 
As opposition mounts, SB 1262 fails to pass Assembly

Senate Bill 1262 is dead for the year after failing to pass the Assembly Appropriations Committee today, and a new author will be needed to push a similar bill next year. At one point, SB 1262 had bipartisan support from Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, a staunch advocate for medical cannabis patients, and the bill’s chief author, state Sen. Lou Correa. The bill would have created a state Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation in the Department [read more …]

Aug 042014
 

This is the text of a letter delivered by FCA members to state Sen. Lou Correa, Assembly Member Tom Ammiano and other lawmakers at ASA’s Lobby Day in Sacramento: Following a survey of its members, the Fresno Cannabis Association wishes to express its opposition to Senate Bill 1262. The greatest concern of FCA members was the bill’s complete failure to address the dispensary and cultivation bans in Fresno and the Central Valley, much less do [read more …]

Jul 302014
 

In a recent survey, we asked people to comment on the general provisions of Senate Bill 1262, which would create a state-level marijuana enforcement bureau but leave cities and counties free to pass their own regulations. Here’s what they said in response to Question 1 of the survey: Senate Bill 1262 would establish within the Department of Consumer Affairs a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation to license dispensing facilities, cultivation sites, and processing facilities that [read more …]

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