It’s not illegal to grow cannabis in the City & County of Sacramento, but there are strict restrictions that are published by large fines. If a resident is caught growing more than the legal limit of six plants, law enforcement can cite the property owner an Administrative Penalty for Cannabis Cultivation.
Unfortunately, this means that if a property owner has rented to someone illegally growing cannabis, the property owner is the one who carries the penalty. The best way out of paying the penalty is to seek representation from an attorney specializing in cannabis appeals.
What is the background on the cannabis law?
The City & County of Sacramento has been cracking down on illegal cannabis and the crime often associated with it. To do so, an ordinance was signed to make it illegal to grow more than six plants per residential property. Each plant above the six-maximum adds a $500-$1,000 fine. This easily stacks up, as the average penalty totals $100,000 – $500,000, with the largest fines exceeding $1 million.
Do the tenants who violate the ordinance get charged?
Tenants might find themselves hit with a misdemeanor, but they’re not responsible for the fines. The ordinance offers no leeway for innocent property owners. The ordinance even states:
No person shall own, lease, occupy, or have charge or possession of any property upon which cannabis is knowingly or unknowingly being cultivated, except in accordance with the following:
- Chapter 5.150 (cannabis businesses).
- Section 8.132.040 (residential cultivation of cannabis)
Key to the ordinance is the phrase “knowingly or unknowingly being cultivated.” Even if a property owner has an anti-cannabis cultivation section on their lease, they’ll get fined for every extra plant grown. This is what happened to John Nguyen. He didn’t suspect anything illegal was happening, but police raided the property and found 785 cannabis plants. That was enough to charge Nguyen a $389,500 penalty.
Nguyen rejected a $100,000 settlement from the city, thinking he could prove his innocence. However, during the cannabis appeals, the court upheld the full penalty. The city came back offering a $200,000 settlement, which he felt forced to take.
Protect yourself by working with an attorney experienced in cannabis law
The first step you can take toward protecting yourself is refusing to lease to cannabis growers. If you already have tenants and you suspect or know they’re cultivating cannabis, you should reach out to an attorney for guidance.
If you’ve been hit with an administrative penalty for cannabis cultivation, call Alves Radcliffe, LLP at 916-333-3375 or send us an email. We have over 25 years of combined experience, and serve clients throughout Greater Sacramento, Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area.