In the move to discourage commercial cannabis cultivation in Fortuna, authorities are now giving $1,000 fine a day to residents growing the plant in their backyards.
The city’s police department announced the citations, claiming that residents won’t be prosecuted for a crime, but of a misdemeanor in growing the plant. Commercial cultivation is considered legal in Humboldt County, but Fortuna police are keeping managing the cultivation activities to a limit.
Through a new citation, the police can give out citations and fines to residents guilty of the misdemeanor. A code of violation will be provided, so residents have no choice but to pay the fine, rather than bringing the offenses to the court. The city council is set to approve the ordinance on Monday, September 28, 2020.
Members of the council who show no support of the marijuana legalization, assure that residents will be fined past $1,000 if necessary. Dean Glaser, a Fortuna council member, expressed extreme criticism over the cultivation of the marijuana plant and made sure the staff will look into the proposed ordinance.
“If someone is caught renting a facility, we fine them, but unfortunately, they can just pick up and leave,” dared Glaser. He also added that council members could seek help from the city law enforcement to ‘bust’ the cultivation facilities and establishments.
Meanwhile, questions were raised on whether landlords are responsible for the activities of tenants. City attorney Ryan Plotz said both landlords and tenants could receive a separate citation on the new cultivation ordinance. He cited compliance on the part of the property owners and the lessee, to attend to the responsibilities to continue the cultivation activities.
“Now, of course, with the tenants, we would probably be chasing them for payment of fines, and we may never see it, even if we get a court judgment. Hopefully, the landlord can enforce compliance when made aware that his tenants are racking up fines on his or her behalf,” said Plotz.
The city attorney also ensures that property owners wouldn’t get additional burden from dealing or totally evicting their tenants for growing marijuana. The $1,000 fine a day will apply on certain terms, and authorities will give property owners a period of time to fix the issue with the tenant and prove they aren’t aware of the growing business of tenants.
Reasonable excuses apply to delay the payment or completely void the fine when landlords are proven not aware of the tenant’s cannabis growing business. On the side of the enforcement, the police chief commends the city council’s leadership in managing illegal marijuana in Fortuna.
Casey Day said it’s not realistic to let law enforcement deal with the city-administered fines worth $1,000 per day. “All of this is due to decriminalization in California. This [ordinance] gives us more impact with the regulations that California is adopting,” stated the police chief.
Day also said that police have been dealing with illegal marijuana cultivation for a long time and even told farmers to follow the city’s ordinances. Additionally, law enforcement already proposed fines for commercial marijuana cultivation but was never imposed and collected.
Because the case can’t be moved to court, authorities claim the new ordinance can cause conflict in the city. Residents can avoid paying fines as they can’t be sued to court for illegal cultivation. After all, growing marijuana is not considered illegal in the Humboldt Country.
City manager Merritt Perry said collecting fines isn’t worth it as it’s not considered a criminal activity. The court cannot prosecute the people cultivating marijuana, as part of the Humboldt Country ordinances. For district attorneys, the law is clear and that no one can be put to jail for growing the marijuana plant.
The new ordinance in Fortuna is simply problematic and can pose a burden to the authorities that will bust houses and facilities. In addition to the conflicting ordinances, Fortuna also allows other kinds of marijuana businesses, including lab testing, but only controlled and limited.
Two years ago, Fortuna officials failed to stop the Humboldt Country’s decision to allow cannabis cultivation. The appeal only went to the county’s board of supervisors, only debunked, and gave the green light to start marijuana cultivation.
In 2017, Fortuna banned outdoor cultivation of marijuana, but was stopped by the state authorities to ban indoor personal cultivation. Since California legalized recreational marijuana, and allows local governments to regulate the market to a certain extent, Fortuna has no choice but to follow the lead of the state authorities.
What started out as a $100 fine for notice of cultivation, the city evolved the cannabis regulation to a bigger extent, requiring a lot of things from the growers. From the need to have a functional kitchen, bathroom, and one-bedroom that’s not used for cultivation, Fortuna city council is going beyond more, to prohibit residents from growing the plant even for commercial purposes.
The outdoor cultivation was laid out to the California state authorities, and then brought up the issue of air ventilation technology to avoid harming the environment and residents. Authorities investigate the matter at hand, before giving Fortuna the green light to ban outdoor cultivation.
Violators of the said ordinance received a $100 fine per day, for the first violation, and $200 for the second day, and $300 for subsequent days of cultivation. Amendments were put to place to allow residents to avoid massive fines.
Part of the ordinance to fine residents for commercial marijuana growing is to give Fortuna more funds in the future. The money that will be collected will be reported to the Humboldt Country, and use for the benefit of the residents. Code violations are not yet finalized, but the city council is determined to pave the path for illegal cannabis growing.
Residents who will receive notice of fine can consult with the authorities to investigate the matter at hand, and if proven not aware of the tenant’s cultivation activities, can be spared from the $1,000 a day fine.