During the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, June 8, the board unanimously approved a resolution presented by Vice Chair Dawn Rowe urging California lawmakers to increase criminal penalties for illegal cannabis cultivation.
Proposition 64, a statewide initiative that was approved by voters in 2016, reduced penalties for illegal cultivation from a felony to a misdemeanor offense. In addition, Prop 64 created a state licensing program for cannabis retail and cultivation. However, sellers and growers cannot obtain a license from the California Bureau of Cannabis Control unless local jurisdictions allow for such activities. Currently, cannabis retail and cultivation are prohibited in all unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County.
“The proliferation of illegal farms in our county is evidence that cannabis laws at the state level aren’t working,” said Rowe. “State legislators need to step up for our rural communities by approving legislation to make illegal cultivation a felony offense once again.”
Illegal cannabis cultivation carries a $500 fine under current state law, which is paltry amount considering many of these crops are producing millions of dollars in annual revenue. A provision in Prop 64 allows State Legislature to amend the measure through legislation, though it requires a two-thirds majority of both houses to pass.
Since the enactment of Prop 64, there has been a 224 percent increase in seizure of illegal cannabis plants in San Bernardino County. In total, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department believes there are 861 illegal cannabis farms operating throughout the county.
“This isn’t a situation that can be solved through enhanced enforcement,” said Rowe. “The county is committing millions of dollars in funding to eradicate this problem, but it isn’t sustainable in the long run. Consequently, this is why it’s so important for state officials to intervene and provide relief to local governments, communities and citizens who are struggling with the unintended and dangerous consequences that were created by Proposition 64.”