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.

(1) comment

Thomas Abouriali

I am disappointed that the headline chosen by the Fontana Herald News regarding this subject is terribly misleading. I was at that meeting and made a public comment regarding this subject. The objective of the ordinance was NOT to approve of homeowners to grow marijuana within their homes since Prop 64 already does that. The purpose of this ordinance was to put additional burdensome regulations on top of this new state law. Our city council and Mayor Warren along with the backing of Fontana PD specifically wants this ordinance in place as a way to force homeowners to register with the city and therefore be subject to regular inspections. Mayor Warren specifically framed this as a safety issue and feels that this restriction is necessary to keep things under control. The question I posed to the Mayor and city council is why do you think the majority of homeowners in our city are going to abuse the law and grow a larger amount of plants than what is allowed. I believe that most people will be responsible citizens regarding this matter and will cultivate and consume marijuana within the safe confines on their homes. It is not necessary for city officials to burden these people in addition to collecting about $412 annually; that's money that I feel is better spent at our local businesses within our community. Another important aspect is that we do not have data and evidence that backs up the mayor's claim that we will be compromising our city's safety; Prop 64 was just voted on and enacted in November. John Roberts and Jesse Armendarez seemed willing to put this on hold for 6 months to 1 year and revisit this later but Mayor Warren pushed it through and forced a vote on the ordinance as is. In closing I expressed to the mayor that if the primary reason for pushing this through is because of safety issues, then we should be consistent in our actions and beliefs and not allow for the HARD Summer Festival to take place in our city since the use of illegal drugs resulting in the death of 3 people is well documented. I encourage all citizens to let your voice be heard and express your thoughts and opinions on this matter to the mayor and city council.

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