The Fontana City Council approved on Jan. 24 an ordinance that allows homeowners to grow marijuana plants under some regulations and restrictions, with the condition that the new policy would be brought back in a year for further review.
The issue was brought to the forefront because of Proposition 64, better known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which was approved by voters statewide last November.
After a heated debate, the City Council approved a staff recommendation to amend section 30-7 of the Zoning and Development Code by renumbering the existing Section 30-7 to 30-7 (A) and adding a new Section 30-7 (B) entitled “Residential Indoor Cultivation."
The final vote was 3-2 with Councilmembers Michael Tahan and Jesse Sandoval opposing the ordinance.
“I can’t support this ordinance for several reasons. We are making businesses go out of business because we inspect them day in and day out, making their lives miserable, but we can’t inspect these houses?” asked Tahan before casting his vote. “I don’t see a restriction in this thing.”
Mayor Acquanetta Warren defended the ordinance, arguing that the city does not go out and try to ruin companies. Warren said that the time to fight this was last year before the election. She was joined by Councilmembers John Roberts and Jesse Armendarez in favor of the ordinance.
Prop. 64 was approved by 57 percent of California voters, legalizing recreational marijuana for persons aged 21 years or older under state law and establishing certain sales and cultivation taxes.
According to city staff, homeowners have the right to grow up to six marijuana plants on their property as permitted by Prop. 64. Those who desire to cultivate the marijuana plants would have to go through a permit process, similar to the process implemented when a homeowner wants to build a patio, city staff indicated.
“The applicant must be 21 years old or older, and the applicant must submit an application through the city along with the permit fee of $411.12,” said Zai AbuBakar, director of community development. “The maximum number of plants is six total. The location of the grow area must be secured and not accessible to minors. The grow areas cannot produce odors, sounds or other emissions that are sensitive to other residents."
The applicant must not have any felony convictions related to marijuana for the last five years and the applicant should not have any pending action with the city, she added.
“We are probably the first city in the area that has this process; that’s why we sought legal advice. We wanted to know what we are doing,” AbuBakar said.
Tahan’s major concern was that there are no limits as to how many properties can seek the permits to cultivate marijuana, meaning that an entire row of houses can cultivate the plants. Tahan also argued that this brings the potential scenario of houses close to schools and parks cultivating marijuana.
Prop. 64 allows for the recreational use of marijuana on people's properties; however, marijuana use in public is still illegal, said Captain Billy Green of the Fontana Police Department.
Sandoval’s primary concern was that the city does not have the needed resources to regulate marijuana cultivation. He also worried about children having easy access to marijuana.