Sonoma County, CA, August 16, 2021 — Emerge Law Group has filed a Petition in California Superior Court challenging penalties of over $28,000 imposed by Sonoma County on a mother and daughter for exceeding the allowed medical cultivation of 100 square feet.
The Petition seeks to overturn the July 16, 2021 decision by an administrative hearing officer that approved the County’s practice of imposing huge fines, even without any evidence that the property owner sold cannabis to any other person. The penalty approved by the hearing officer would, if not overturned in Court, be financially destructive to the mother and daughter.
Sonoma County contended at the administrative hearing that any cultivation area that exceeds 100 square feet “magically” becomes subject to prosecution as an illegal “commercial” cannabis business. By simply exceeding the allowed square footage, a property owner engages in “commercial cultivation,” according to the County. County officials said at the hearing that imposing the harsh fine schedule for illegal commercial growers in these circumstances is “easiest” for them.
The Petition filed by Emerge attorneys Timothy L. Alger and Delia Rojas asks the Superior Court to vacate the fines, order Sonoma County to stop its arbitrary and excessively punitive enforcement practices and seeks damages for violation of the civil rights of the mother and daughter. The Petition alleges that Sonoma County has adopted policies and practices that are unfair and designed to punish individuals who, often by inadvertence, become non-compliant with regulations allowing limited personal and medical cannabis cultivations.
The mother and daughter contend in their Petition that a Sonoma County enforcement official, when he conducted an unscheduled inspection, called one of the petitioners names and threatened the petitioners with $10,000 fines per day if the inspector was not immediately allowed onto the property. The petitioners have had medical approvals for their cultivation, and there is no evidence that they ever sold cannabis to any person. The petitioners assert that they always attempted to comply with County regulations and cooperated with inspections.
“This is an important lawsuit because it holds local governments to account for abusing their limited power to regulate cannabis cultivation,” said Emerge attorney Timothy Alger. “Californians overwhelmingly approved at the ballot box the right of residents to grow cannabis for personal and medical use. Minor violations do not entitle a city or county to treat people who are exercising their rights to personal and medical cultivation — and attempting in good faith to comply with complicated and often illogical regulations — as illegal commercial businesses.”
Emerge Law Group is a full-service law firm that focuses on representing companies in the legal cannabis industry. It has offices in Irvine, Los Angeles, and Santa Rosa, California, as well as Portland, Oregon.