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