If you are a resident of the city of Indian Wells in California and would like to grow some pot at home under the under the recent voter-approved Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), be prepared to apply for a permit and pay $141.30 a year to the city administration. According to NBC News, the controversial ordinance passed by the city administration is being termed by many legal experts to be unconstitutional. It has also been termed the most stringent regulation passed statewide by several experts.
Apart from paying an annual fee, citizens would also be required to allow a home inspection by city employees if they wish to get the permit issued. This, according to the city administration, is to ensure that no more than six plants are grown in the premises (which is the maximum allowed under AUMA). City officials are also liable to check that the plants are provided ample ventilation and that the cultivation happens in a locked area, designated for that purpose. The above measures passed in the ordinance has been confirmed by Assistant City Manager David Gassaway.
According to Gassaway, no residents spoke against the ordinance when a public hearing discussing it was held on Thursday. Later, the city council adopted the ordinance in a 4-1 vote. One Councilman abstained from the vote. The abstainer was Councilman Ty Peabody who later spoke to the media and said, “I just don’t believe in marijuana.”
He went on to add that marijuana is still being legalized in California and that it remains illegal federally.
Meanwhile, Pau Armentano, deputy director for the NORML Foundation, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit lobbying for reform in marijuana laws, was of the opinion that there is no basis for a citizen engaging in legal behavior in the privacy of his property to have to register with the city.
“If individuals are engaging in legal behavior in their privacy of their own home, it does not seem appropriate to have to register with the city. This seems awfully onerous.”
Armentano also talked about privacy aspects of the ordinance because the issue of permits effectively means that the city would have a complete list of people who are (legally) growing marijuana at their homes. He equated the ordinance to the city indulging in Big Brother-like surveillance by law enforcement. He, however, went on to add that several sites across the U.S. do maintain a record of medical marijuana users and that there have been no reports of abuse so far.
“In theory, no, not a fan of having to register. But we have no incidences of (abuse) happening.”
After told about the ordinance, Erwin Chemerinksy, the deal at the Irvine law school, University of California revealed that current California laws allow city administrations to frame “reasonable” regulations for areas that fall under their jurisdiction. However, the latest ordinance went too far beyond what the laws allow, Erwin opined.
“I think this goes significantly beyond what state law allows local governments to do,” he said.
Another expert in the field, cannabis law expert and attorney Omar Figueroa also termed the ordinance “unconstitutional” and “crazy,” while adding that he never seen this kind of legislation anywhere in the U.S.
“It’s not a constitutionally enforceable law. It would be foolish of them to enforce it. It’s an issue that could be very costly for Indian Wells… they could end up with a federal court lawsuit. I hope they don’t waste taxpayer money trying to enforce this unconstitutional law.”
City officials, however, do not see any legal problems with the ordinance and termed the regulations pretty “reasonable.”
[Featured Image by Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo]