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 The ordinance repealed a previous provision in the Zoning Ordinance, first enacted in 2011, that allowed indoor medical marijuana cultivation facilities to be established in certain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:

  7 Responses to “Flashback 2014: Cannabis bans take root in Fresno”

  1. Thank you for defending my private property rights in Fresno County. I’m disappointed that the ACLU suit was dismissed. I live in Goleta and pay taxes on 20 acres of undeveloped land in Fresno County. Since I live in SBA county I am staying home for now. Please let me know if you need boots on the ground in Fresno. I can donate more time than money. Happy New Year, and thank you again. MX

    • The dismissal was foreseeable from the day the ACLU suit was filed, but it’s now on appeal to the Fifth Appellate District. Unfortunately, we have an appellate case upholding a growing ban in the city of Live Oak, which the Supreme Court declined to review, so the ACLU faces an uphill battle. One thing we’ve learned from this is that SB 420 is a toothless tiger, ceding all regulatory authority to cities and counties. Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, we know serious changes are needed in California cannabis laws.

  2. The Fresno co growing ban ordinance clearly states that medical cannabis with mold or chemicals can be dangerous for some patients yet take away safe access for patients that can’t travel long distances. Isn’t it clear that the supervisors are willfully being defiant to the intent of prop 215?

    • Yes, that is abundantly clear. It’s also clear that the intent of Prop. 215 and/or SB 420 is irrelevant, since it’s the drill-down provisions of those laws that really matter. Without a new state law or court ruling that tells supervisors they can’t enforce a total growing ban, being willfully defiant is a dumb but lawful option.

      • That is true the courts rule the land and the state legislation upholds nothing

        Ca constitution states local government can’t make up its own laws that violate state legislation
        Fresno county Fresno city are in preemption.

        Supreme court decision ,
        New adopted state legislation is needed.

        Civil rights are violated and human government can’t see the real health issue people face

        Cannabis saves lives and live preservation ,public safety the welfare of the People whose dollars are used are last on the agenda

        Talk about insanity , I’d say this goes way further then ever and we will see more until we continue to resist and challenge the system we live in fear of

        • Actually, pre-emption is not the issue. It should be the issue, of course, because it’s hella dumb to write state laws that can be effectively overruled by local ordinances. But state pre-emption is not the issue, our courts have ruled, because neither Prop. 215 nor SB 420 specifically pre-empt local ordinances. To the contrary, SB 420 explicitly provides for local control, up to and including total bans on cannabis dispensaries (and possibly cultivation, too).

          Which is, to flog a very dead horse, a really dumb way to regulate cannabis. Here’s hoping we fix things in 2016.

          • What type of paperwork have certain clubs in town done to stay open I know of two open
            How the heck is that possible

            And now that I think of it I know of 3 open literally

            It’s all confusing

            And once upon a time I lived under a roof that caught wind of city inspector and right away they wanted like 300 dollars to contest the housing code violations for having an indoor garden

            The person whom owned the home just killed the plants and that was the end of it

            But it seems like not everyone gets busted the same way

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