The Fresno City Council voted 5-0 today to approve a permanent ban on growing medical marijuana outdoors. (It’s on the June 28 council agenda for second reading and final passage.)
The ordinance allows no outdoor marijuana cultivation of any kind within the city limits, just like the temporary bans that were passed in December and January. Enforcement will be handled through a civil injunctive process, with each day of non-compliance counting as a separate violation. Outdoor growers who defy the ban face possible fines and cost recovery for the city’s attorney’s fees and investigative costs, which can easily total several thousand dollars. Violations can be charged as a misdemeanor, and landlords and commercial property owners can also be punished if marijuana is grown on their property.
Council members Blong Xiong, the acting president, Sal Quintero, Andreas Borgeas, Lee Brand and Larry Westerlund voted in favor of the permanent ban, which requires a second hearing before final adoption. Council President Clint Olivier, who voted against both of the temporary bans, was absent, as was Council member Oliver L. Baines III.
The vote came after four people spoke against the ban, including myself, Dustin Frazier Lowery, Diane Valdovinos, and Fresno attorney Brenda Linder. One resident spoke in favor of the ban, which was introduced and promoted by the Fresno Police Department. A spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers union sent a letter urging council members to wait for Assembly Bill 2312 to provide additional guidance. AB 2312 was passed by the Assembly and awaits further action in the state Senate.
While the vote to approve the outdoor growing ban was expected, it was particularly untimely. Several key medical-marijuana cases are pending before the California Supreme Court. The court’s rulings in future months could not only undo the city’s growing ban, but also its ban on medical marijuana collectives and dispensaries. As I told the council in oral and written testimony, the city needs a Plan B.
A comprehensive cannabis ordinance would govern cultivation by individual patients, both indoors and outdoors, and it would also set down rules for collective cultivation sites. Collectives are authorized in SB 420 to provide cannabis to patients who can’t grow their own. Ban collectives, as the city and Fresno County have done, and an increase in home cultivation is inevitable, not just by lawful patients but also by illegal growers. Allow collectives to open, and many patients will choose not to grow at home, which in many cases might be the better choice them and their neighbors.
State law provides for both indoor and outdoor cultivation, as well as cultivation by groups and individuals. The only remaining option in Fresno is indoor cultivation by individual patients, and those rights could be further curtailed in future months depending on the Supreme Court’s rulings. Check this website for further updates on Fresno’s ban on growing marijuana outdoors.