Because Fresno Hates Pot

California may have been an early adopter of medical marijuana, but the nice folks who have their hands on the wheel in Fresno don’t see what that has to do with them.  While the state law permits the growth of medical marijuana, it also allowed localities to regulate its cultivation, which is a hole big enough to drive a Mack truck through.  Fresno figured it out.

Via KFSN-TV in Fresno:

Fresno narcotics officers have been called out to more than a dozen properties in the past two days, where marijuana was growing in backyards, shanty’s or garage enclosures. Complaints from neighbors have come from all over town, from McKinley and Cedar to Willow and Nees.

Narcotics Detective Mike Brogdon says the complaints multiplied.

“Ever since the ordinance was introduced by Chief Dyer at the City Council, we are averaging about 10 a day now on marijuana issues so it’s gone up quite a bit,” said Brogdon.

Notice anything peculiar about the narc’s choice of words?  These are not the words of an inspector, enforcing zoning regulations.  These are the words of a cop enforcing criminal laws. Except that can’t be, because it isn’t a crime.  Maybe nobody told Fresno?

Police are confiscating plants but are not issuing citations yet. Growers have 120 days to get rid of their marijuana before facing fines of up to $1,000 per plant.

In case anyone missed the gravamen of this statement, police are engaged in armed, warrantless raids on properties where they search and seize plants.  Forget trying to figure out how “growers” are supposed to get rid of plants that have already been seized (and, because they’re plants, destroyed by having been “confiscated”).

Except this, bad enough already, isn’t quite the way it’s happening in Fresno.  The author of the article, Gene Haagenson, apparently suffers from unexplained short-term memory loss, as he apparently forgot all about an article he wrote three days earlier.

Fresno County’s new anti-marijuana growing ordinance was enforced for the first time on Tuesday. The Board of Supervisors imposed a $43,000 fine on a woman who was growing 43 marijuana plants.  The first target of the ban on growing marijuana, medical or otherwise, was given three minutes to plead her case.

In Fresno, 120 days doesn’t mean what they think it does.

Phaith Holapatiphone pleaded with the board, “I didn’t get a fair warning, they came in one afternoon, and talked to my brother when I wasn’t present and it was either comply or we’ll take you to jail.”

Deputies discovered 43 marijuana plants on Holapatiphone’s mothers property near Sanger.   So, she complied with their order to remove the plants.   But that wasn’t the end of it because under Fresno County’s pot ordinance she still faces a $1,000.00 per plant fine. She admitted to being confused.

Phaith said, “I didn’t know what to do, and I still don’t know what to do.”

Either the attorney for Fresno is the slickest guy around, or he’s utterly clueless. The former seems far more likely, as the Board apparently has no clue what the ordinance they enacted means or how it functions, and even less clue how local law doesn’t trump technicalities like the Constitution or state law.

For the supervisors, that was no excuse. Debbie Poochigian told the woman, “The ordinance is what it is, and to back off of it now because you weren’t sure or you didn’t know or a whole bunch of reasons is not a good idea.”

But the board members themselves were confused as to what they were doing.  Board President Andreas Borgeas repeatedly sought information from the county’s attorney, and explained:  “I’m just trying to get a framework from where we are starting because this is our very first time.”

Apparently, the Board of Supervisors, and Poochigian, its supervisor, are unaware that they aren’t a court of law, entitled to rule on a person’s “guilt” for possessing marijuana, which means that they are at most engaged in an administrative function.  Except they just happen to use their police to raid people’s properties without the need for warrants, seize property that is lawful under the law of California, ignore their own 120-day rule and impose outrageous “administrative” fines, all without having the slightest clue what their law, or any other law, requires.

Fresno is out of control.  My bet is the police chief and county attorney are well aware of it, but also know that nobody on the Fresno board will do or say anything to prevent their flagrant unconstitutional conduct or ignorance of state law. As long as the majority of residents in Fresno are fine with wiping out medical marijuana in their midst, there is nothing and no one to stop them from doing anything they please.

Indeed, Haagenson offers his legal expert to explain why this is really no problem at all.

But ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says police have the law on their side.

“Local law enforcement should be spending time on it, because it is a violation of federal Law, and the way state law is written now it’s so loose and ambiguous it’s being abused, and I think local law enforcement has to still police in that area, there’s no question about it,” said Capozzi.

If this statement seems utterly incomprehensible to you, you’re not alone. Of course, it’s quite possible that Haagenson completely botched the quote, which is the only way this could make any sense whatsoever.

No, Fresno cops do not enforce federal law, and yes, unless Fresno is a foreign nation lacking a constitution, the cops cannot, under the guise of a local ordinance, raid people’s homes and properties without a warrant, seize their property, and then have an elected body impose an administrative fine in complete disregard for even their cockamamie local ordinance.

There’s no question about it?  Only on Planet Fresno.

Had the issue at hand been something other than defending the rights of medical marijuana growers, one might call the Department of Justice to gripe about how Fresno has chosen to absolve itself from any constitutional “technicalities,” like search warrants. But given the nature of the problem, the feds aren’t likely to be very helpful.

Thus, it seems that only the California attorney general would be in a position to shut down Fresno and stop the lawlessness.  Clearly, nobody in Fresno government gives a damn, whether because they’re clueless, lawless or stoned out of their mind.

H/T Rick Horowitz, the Fearless Fighter From Fresno

21 comments on “Because Fresno Hates Pot

  1. Tim Cushing

    No choice here but to quote Frank Zappa: “The United States is a nation of laws; badly written and randomly enforced.”

    Other towns set up aggressive speed traps on the 0.6 mile stretch of highway that cuts through the outside corner of their loose collection of “backyards, shanty’s or garage enclosures.” Fresno, on the other hand, is going to let this travesty of a debacle fill the public coffers. Because no one wants to live next door to a dangerous medical weed dealer.

    1. SHG Post author

      I’m not entirely clear on whether this is a revenue raiser or just their asinine attempt to circumvent state law. After all, after the first few casualties, I suspect there won’t be any more money to be fined. But maybe that’s why Zappa chose Montana for his farm.

      1. Wheeze The People™

        Frank Zappa sez: “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing!!”, at least not in Fresno . . .

        Man, ‘Merica needs Frank Zappa now more than ever. Franky baby, you left us much too soon . . .

  2. Bud Green

    Quick point of clarification: The police sweep was conducted by the city, while the heavy fines were issued following the first abatement actions by the county. Both came down last week, so the news feeds got crossed, and we’re still playing catch-up on how this all will play out.

    In the meantime we’re learning, as the author correctly points out, how armed cops and deputies are playing code enforcement without using warrants or giving fair notice. Thursday’s enforcement fell under the city’s previous outdoor growing ban, since the total ban hasn’t taken effect yet. This set of “voluntary” rips won’t feature the $1,000/plant fine, but they will starting in about five months.

    Since the county ordinance is already in place, the heavy fines are starting to come down the pipeline. One patient has already filed a facial challenge, and a second suit could be filed this week. An as-applied challenge is also being discussed, so stay tuned. We’re just waking up to how bad things really are.

    1. SHG Post author

      Thanks for the details/update from someone with feet on the ground. The reporting out of Fresno is less than satisfying.

  3. Alex Stalker

    “Either the attorney for Fresno is the slickest guy around, or he’s utterly clueless. The former seems far more likely…”

    I think you meant “the latter.”

  4. Agent Cogent Research Slippers AKA John Barleycorn

    Interesting snippets abound with this colorful cast of musketeers as they go about their questionable quadratic calculations.

    Debbie Poochigian’ father, Deran Koligian, was also a Fresno County supervisor.

    Debbie served as a member of the boards of a major medical center (imagine that, really?) and Fresno Area Crime Stoppers (I am shocked). She is actively involved in Neighborhood Watch (so watch out), and is a member of the Clovis Chamber of Commerce and Fresno County Farm Bureau (medicinal marijuana farmers must be missing some Chamber and Bureau luncheons or not getting invites for some reason).

    City of Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dryer’s recent Chamber of Commerce breakfast event titled Eggs & Issues – “Crime is Toast” sold out. He also has more than a few citizen web sites that are dedicated to examining his unique Chief-Ness like abilities which my schedule prevents me from researching at the moment.

    Elizabeth Egan the Fresno County DA lordships her reign with the assistance of approximately (except for Sundays) two hundred and thirty employed underlings who she shepherds through tribulations of some fifty thousand (yes, you read that right 50,000) criminal cases a year. Which is a mere 136 a day including Sundays when no one is working.

    Then there is the man who wears no spurs. The City Attorney of Fresno. Doug (don’t call him a slacker Sloan. Seems once upon a time about this time of year back in 2012 hand delivered in person a packet to the Fresno Oversight Board a rather thick packet, during what had been billed at the time “one of the most chaotic meetings in Fresno’s History.” Seems a city council member informing the Oversight Board that the should go home was not sufficient. To quote directly from Cactus Thorns:
    ~~~Board members were told they don’t exist. “We’re being sued — by our own lawyer!”, exclaimed one board member. ~~~

    Doug (who shall not be called a bootlicker nor pot-licker) with the diligent assistance of his Office’s elves
    not only gets to prepare legal opinions, ordinances, resolutions, contracts, and other documents requested by Council and City organizations; he also gets to implement the legal aspects of various policies and programs established by the City.

    Not to be jubilantly out-juiced by the responsibility of criminal litigation as part of the Office’s code enforcement responsibilities.

    And just for the excitement on the side he also serves as counsel for the Fresno Redevelopment Agency.
    Who I would assume knows a thing or two about code.

    It is still April 1st and seeing as how I also forgot to inform our esteemed that concise does not apply when I am acting as Agent Cogent Research Slippers I will enclose a link to the City of Fresno’s Code Enforcement Form. Just in case any of you City of Fresno readers have been looking for a
    a cloaked opportunity to fuck with your neighbor for not trimming their raspberry bushes.

    http://www.fresno.gov/Government/DepartmentDirectory/DARM/CodeEnforcement/CodeViolationReporting.htm

    This link may be slightly out of line due to our esteemed hosts rightful respect for the poor saps at at city hall who have to deal with the paperwork errant and malicious musketeers are capable of generating.

    But the link is readily found if our esteemed host finds it regrettably convenient.

    AND DON’T FORGET; today is April 1st so if you know of any code violations in Fresno please be concise and Cogent. Unless you are providing background research or breaking the rules set fort by the webmaster of Fresno.

    1. SHG Post author

      Today was the day your promise was to start, and no, using a different name does not change it. I’m very disappointed.

      1. John Barleycorn

        I am an honorable man. Far be it from me, not to hover into view and speak thusly to expose the exceptions before cogent and concise escape Joe’s garage and the plot thickens.

        I would not want to fully expose your readers, on day one, to horrors of the resolution before they are aware that everyday ordinary activities could lead to the death penalty without someone taking responsibility to enforce all the laws that haven’t been passed yet.

          1. John Barleycorn

            No. Today was just a house warming gift of delectable muffin remnants.

            You can think of this factually accurate historical context involving the “players” in your Fresno post as the batter. The Mr. Fish cartoon is the muffin pan. Both are only needed and necessary when baking muffins is the only appropriate thing to do.

            Cogent and concise are the poppy seeds to come which have never needed the muffin.

            1. John Barleycorn

              I have found the Walnut’s chemical components limit its culinary potential. Their use in muffins, for example, requires a slightly sweeter batter if they are to succeed.

              I am pleased to see you are a bread and muffin man though Brett.

              Cupcakes just won’t do.

            2. Brett Middleton

              I knew the muffin man. The muffin man was a friend of mine. I am NO muffin man. (More of a pie guy, actually. I make a great shoo-fly, in particular.)

          2. JimBill

            I was really hoping for a simple “yes”. “No” would work too, but it wouldn’t be as funny.

            1. John Barleycorn

              Do you think the use of “as if” should ever be considered as a replacement for “no way” when the evidence is overwhelming in your favor during a closing argument esteemed host?

  5. John Jenkins

    What I don’t understand about an ordinance like this is why so many people care so much about what their neighbors are doing. If any of my neighbors were growing pot, I would not know, so there would be no tips called in to the police (from me). But who goes out of his way to discover what his neighbors are doing with their horticultural time (looks like Bob is growing heirloom tomatoes and poblano peppers, why there oughtta be a law!)?

    Yes, the city and county have much to answer for, but to me it’s their nosy, busybody accomplices who are the greatest threat. It’s very sad that we have lost a lot of what it means to be members of local communities, while retaining the nosy neighbor: proof that the assholes are always the last to leave?

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