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.
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 and the continued ban on outdoor cultivation, as well as a related proposal that would have allowed only one dispensary in the city of 510,000 people. No action was taken regarding collectives or dispensaries Thursday.
Medical cannabis advocates Derek Payton and Michael Green lauded the council for considering any cultivation after imposing the total ban, but they noted that Senate Bill 420 provides for a minimum of six plants per patient. They also attacked the city’s environmental findings, which likened growing marijuana to growing house plants while concluding there were no possible impacts. The same finding was made regarding the city’s total ban, and a lawsuit challenging that ordinance is set for trial May 15.
Council members split 5-2 on the new ordinance, which still must pass a second reading before final approval. Voting in favor were Baines and Council Members Clint Olivier, Lee Brand, Paul Caprioglio and Esmeralda Soria, whom Baines appointed to the city’s ersatz medical marijuana subcommittee with himself and Olivier. Council Members Steve Brandau and Sal Quintero voted against the new law without explanation.