Home News East Bay city updates its commercial cannabis rules, fines

East Bay city updates its commercial cannabis rules, fines

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Oakley tweaked its cannabis regulations this week to clarify fines and administrative hearing rules.

Earlier this spring, the City Council unanimously adopted rules to increase to up to $1,000 per violation or up to $10,000 a day for unlicensed commercial cannabis activity. Before that, the city could issue fines of $100, $200 or $500 for code violations, and there was no cap.

But on Tuesday, the council unanimously adopted a new ordinance, clarifying that each marijuana plant illegally cultivated outdoors or indoors in excess of the six plants that state law allows will be subject to separate administrative fines.

New rules also clarified that a property owner has the right to appeal a citation to an administrative hearing officer and possibly be given time to remedy the situation. To clear the fines, the property owner would have to prove that the tenant had the illegal cannabis, the rental agreement did not allow commercial cannabis and the property owner didn’t know the tenant was engaging in unlawful cannabis activity.

Failure to prove all three conditions would result in the fines being upheld, according to the staff report.

Councilman George Fuller, though, said it was the property owner’s responsibility to keep an eye out for such illegal doings.

“I don’t give landowners much slack and not knowing that cannabis is being grown inside their grow house,” he said. “I think it’s their responsibility to look at it. There’s many indicators – increased electrical use, increased water use. Nobody’s coming into the house. It’s got papered over.”

According to staff, property owners will be mailed a notification when code enforcement issues a violation to a property, which may include a citation. If the notice is returned, additional steps are taken to find the owner, and once located, a hearing is set and the administrative judge determines the amount of time the owner has to correct the issue.

Councilman Aaron Meadows, who works in real estate, said property managers can’t simply go into people’s houses to see if there are illegal grows or anything else.

“We don’t have that right,” he said.

Property owners and tenants have obligations to each other under California law that are “well-stated and regulated” and the city does not get involved in those rules, City Attorney Derek Cole noted.

“Our hearing officer is going to expect the landlord to come forward with some facts (to avoid a citation),” he said. “But, I think all of the concerns you’re raising – all of you – make some very good points. I do think the drafting of the ordinance captures that and gives us flexibility.”

Assembly Bill 1684, which became effective Jan.1, allows municipalities to impose higher fines on both the property and each of its owners, declaring the unauthorized business a public nuisance.

Under the new state rules, fines can be levied for all unlicensed commercial cannabis activity, including the cultivation, manufacturing, processing, distribution, or retail sale of cannabis products.



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