An effort led by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance saw a judge toss out Fontana, California’s overbearing restrictions on personal cannabis cultivation this week.
Judge David Cohn of the San Bernardino County Superior Court struck down most of Fontana’s local ordinance meant to regulate personal cultivation. While California’s Proposition 64 did allow for local municipalities to regulate the practice of personal cultivation, the plaintiffs argued the number of hoops to jump through and money required to home-grow cannabis in Fontana was essentially a quasi-ban.
In October, attorneys with the ACLU and DPA requested that the San Bernardino County courts order the city of Fontana to not impede the will of the voters, as dictated by Prop 64. As when the Adult Use of Marijuana Act was merged with Sacramento’s idea of regulatory control, the will of the voters usually wins out in court every time. Prop 64 was intended to allow local governments to put in a reasonable regulatory structure in pursuit of responsible citizens growing their own marijuana at home in a safe and secure setting. However, Fontana’s regulations were so stringent that the city had no homegrowers to speak of.
Julia Barajas of Cannabiswire broke down exactly what people would have faced had any attempted The Fontana Homegrown Challenge. First, citizens had to fill out applications that proved they had no outstanding debts or a recent felony criminal history. Then, the application includes a live scan that Barajas priced between $11 and $70. If citizens have made it that far, they then would pay $25 to the California Department of Justice. Finally, after all that, citizens pay Fontana $411, while agreeing to an inspection of their home by the city to ensuring that all utilities in the house or apartment are up to code. A person could be in the hole almost $500 before even starting the grow process!
Mike Harris, a 30-year Fontana resident and medical marijuana patient, was supported by the ACLU and DPA in his successful pursuit to get the local regulations tossed by the courts.
The plaintiffs were able to prove how overbearing the costs were, especially when it came to a sick person trying to grow the medicine that works best for them.
One fact pointed out in the case was the pricing structure around far more dangerous local permits. While closet grows with six plants would cost $411, an explosives permit could be purchased for only $291 and a radioactive materials permit only costs $358. The plaintiffs also pointed out that state law does not bar felons from growing a personal amount of marijuana.
“Fontana’s ordinance was designed to deter its residents from engaging in legal conduct under state law. We are relieved that the court’s order will now allow the protections of Prop. 64 and the will of the California voters to be realized,” said DPA Legal Director Tamar Todd.
William Freeman, senior counsel of the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, made the case for the classism at play in Fontana’s previous regulations.
“Growing marijuana for personal use shouldn’t be reserved solely for the wealthy residents of a city,” said Freeman. “We are pleased that Fontana’s harsh permit restrictions have been struck down and hope this ruling will serve as a reminder to other cities that are trying to put unfair restrictions on state law or criminalize what Prop. 64 legalized.”
We asked Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert if policies like the ones in Fontana are the last scratches of local municipalities clinging to prohibition in places like California.
“There will inevitably be some local governments that cling to marijuana prohibition, much like we’ve seen with dry counties that have maintained excessive restrictions on alcohol well past the repeal of alcohol prohibition,” said Tvert. “Hopefully rulings like this one will inspire local governments to think twice before enacting excessive regulations on personal cannabis use and cultivation.”
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