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|
^ Dissent ‐ Borgeas
* Dissent ‐ Poochigian