City of Fontana Sued for Strict Home Grow Rules

On Monday, the Drug Policy Alliance and Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the City of Fontana, California on behalf of a hopeful cannabis cultivator.

Mike Harris, a retiree and longtime resident of Fontana, wished to grow cannabis in his home after the November passing of California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), also known as Proposition 64. California residents with a doctor’s recommendations for medical marijuana have the right to cultivate in their homes, but Prop 64 afforded some of the same rights, with limitations, for all adults over the age of 21. The language of AUMA states that individual municipalities can vote to institute their own regulations on cultivation, but prohibits them from banning cultivation outright.

“The ACLU of California supported Prop. 64, in large part because of our longstanding policy that possessing or cultivating marijuana for personal use should not be a crime,” explained Jess Farris, Southern California ACLU’s Director of Criminal Justice. “The Fontana ordinance – and other similar ordinances around the state – would criminalize the very conduct Prop. 64 legalized, particularly for people who are ineligible to obtain a permit because of their criminal convictions or their lack of funds to obtain a permit or to dedicate an entire room in their home to cultivation.”

While the City of Fontana isn’t technically forbidding recreational home grows, they’re not far off. According to the lawsuit, Fontana’s overtly restrictive new cultivation policies are in explicit contradiction of Prop 64, which not only passed by a majority in the state of California (57% majority) but also in Fontana itself (53.5%) and the surrounding San Bernardino County (52.5%).

Fontana’s home cultivation regulations require those who wish to grow cannabis to register with the city, pay an exorbitant $411.12 fee for a cultivator permit, undergo an invasive criminal background check — even though prior marijuana convictions shouldn’t exclude someone from Prop 64-approved home grows, and submit themselves to residential check-ins from city officials.

“This ordinance is at odds with state law enacted by a majority of the voters in California, in San Bernardino County, and the City of Fontana,” said Drug Policy Alliance Staff Attorney Joy Haviland. “Local officials cannot limit or undo what is now legally allowed in California. Prop. 64 allows adults to cultivate for their own personal use in their private homes without unnecessary intrusion from the state.”

The irony of Fontana’s decision to levy markedly more strict guidelines against home cultivators is that their intentions are to keep the marijuana industry out, yet not allowing residential grows in a state where legal recreational sales are still a long way out will allow the black market to continue thriving.

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett

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