UPDATE: Fortuna Passes Registration Requirements for Personal Use Cannabis Grows


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The Fortuna City Council voted unanimously last night to require residents to register their personal-use cannabis grows with the city.

Residents wanting to exercise their rights under Proposition 64 to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use will now have to pay a $100 filing fee to the city, file a “notice of cultivation” and potentially open their homes to city inspections.

The council also met in a special closed session meeting yesterday afternoon to evaluate the performance of City Manager Mark Wheetley. According to Deputy Clerk Megan Wilbanks, the council reported no action out of the closed-door meeting. (The closed session item on the same topic agendized for the regular council meeting was canceled.)

As recreational cannabis goes legal throughout California, the Fortuna City Council will contemplate further cracking down on grows within city limits.

The council had already taken action to ban commercial cultivation and sales within city limits, for both medical and recreational cannabis, and banned personal-use outdoor grows, making it illegal for someone to grow a plant in their backyard. Now the council is looking at taking steps to rein in the right Proposition 64 granted on all Californians — to grow up to six plants in their residences.

Tonight, the council will decide whether to approve a $100 filing fee and require residents wanting to grow their six plants to file “notices of cultivation” with city hall.

“The purpose of the notice is to protect the public health and safety by notifying the city of legal cultivation sites, and to establish a fee that will cover a portion of the cost to administer the notices,” the staff report states. “Staff time will include basic filing and record keeping as well as review of each notice by the planning division, building division and police department to check for compliance with standards of the ordinance. Efforts might include discussion with the resident, checking existing building permit records, and site visits to confirm compliance with the standards such as the prohibition of visual and odor-related cultivation.”

Journal attempts to reach Fortuna City Manager Mark Wheetley to discuss the proposal Friday and this morning were not successful.

Proposition 64 allows local jurisdictions to adopt “reasonable regulations” on personal use grows of six plants or fewer, but stops short of delineating what those might be. Is it reasonable for a city to require residents to put their names on a public list and open their homes up for inspection in order to grow cannabis for their own personal use? City staff seems to think so but elsewhere similar proposals have met pushback and threats of litigation.

The city of Fontana passed an ordinance requiring residents to get $411 permits from the city and submit to criminal background checks to make sure they don’t have any drug convictions in the past five years. (Under the ordinance, residents also can’t have any overdue fees or bills from the city.) The city of Indian Wells similarly passed an ordinance requiring residents to get $141 annual permits and submit to home inspections.

Both cities were named in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the Drug Policy Alliance.

“This is an overreach,” Fontana resident Thomas Abouriali told the Cannifornian of his city’s ordinance. “I don’t like the fact that you have to give up your privacy and say the city can come in and inspect your home in order to do what state law says you have the right to do. It’s a very slippery slope, in my opinion.”

In Fortuna's proposed resolution, the city argues that requiring residents to register their grows would help the city inform them of the “standards and requirements” of the city’s municipal code and “ease the city’s ability to investigate and enforce cultivation sites that are not allowed and which may be causing a neighborhood nuisance.” It’s unclear from the city’s staff report what penalty if any there would be for a resident failing to pay the fee and register his or her grow with the city.

Other municipalities — like San Juan Capistrano — have made it a misdemeanor to cultivate for personal use without a local permit.

In a letter sent to the San Juan Capistrano City Council opposing its proposal, Ellen Komp, deputy director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, turned to an analogy.

“Requiring a permit for someone to grow a personal marijuana garden, and making it a potential misdemeanor with a six-month sentence to grow without one, is rather like a law giving women the right to vote — but requiring them to get a permission slip from their husbands, or else face jail time,” she wrote.

In other matters, the Fortuna City Council will meet in closed session — both at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. tonight and at a special meeting two hours earlier — to evaluate and review Wheetley’s performance.

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