Supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday to vote on the first reading of a Fresno County cannabis ban.
Actually, they’ll consider two proposed cannabis laws. One would repeal the current licensing requirements for collectives while banning outdoor cultivation of any kind, limiting indoor grows to six mature plants, and imposing heavy fines and/or misdemeanor charges for violations.
The second ordinance is the nuclear option: A total ban on all cannabis cultivation, indoors and outdoors, with the same heavy penalties. Both ordinances ban (or try to, on paper at least) the consumption of cannabis anywhere except within a patient’s residence. Both ordinances maintain the county’s current ban on cannabis collectives and dispensaries. Both ordinances allow sheriff’s deputies to rip plants on the spot, through a process called summary abatement, where an immediate threat to health and safety exists, which is pretty much 24/7 according to supervisors.
Neither one of the proposed ordinances has been reviewed by the Fresno County Planning Commission, even though such review is standard for text amendments to the county code of ordinances. On Oct. 10, an earlier proposed Fresno County cannabis ordinance was presented as a fait accompli to the planning board, which was asked only to rubber-stamp the deletion of medical cannabis cultivation facilities as a permitted use in the county’s zoning ordinance. Because the cannabis ban doesn’t appear on the Fresno County Planning Commission agenda for Dec. 14, it appears that commissioners will not be able to recommend passage or denial of the full ordinance, since they technically (and legally) haven’t seen it yet. The commission meets next on Jan. 9.
Nor has the Planning Commission seen the nifty new environmental assessment completed for the proposed ordinances. In September, the county claimed the canna-ban was exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act. This time, county planners want the Board of Supervisors to sign off on a document titled Initial Study Application No. 6770 (IS 6770), and also to make the legally required findings that the impacts of the outdoor growing ban have been adequately reviewed and mitigated. The findings are called a Mitigated Negative Declaration. In legal terms, the county’s purported claims regarding the environmental impacts of an outdoor cultivation ban are not based on substantial evidence. In practical terms, it’s hard to understand why the sustainable outdoor cultivation of cannabis and hemp is being criminalized in an ag county.