California County Will Fine Illegal Pot Growers $1,000 a Day Per Plant

To push back against the Golden State’s gigantic cannabis black market, officials in Stanislaus County are preparing to slap millions of dollars in civil fines on illicit cultivators. 

In an effort to dissuade thousands of unlicensed cannabis growers operating in California’s central valley, officials in Stanislaus County are getting set to implement new civil fines against black market cultivators, potentially charging millions of dollars for large scale operations.

According to the Modesto Bee, the new fines were approved by the County Board of Supervisors last month and will go into effect later this month, on December 19th. Under the new county guidelines, if police catch cultivators growing more than six legally allowed plants, the land owner will incur a fine of $1,000 per plant per day. 

“This is going to put some teeth in what we are trying to accomplish,” Stanislaus County Board Chairman Terry Withrow told the Bee.

As California’s legal cannabis industry continues to find its foothold in the face of the state’s massive unregulated market, police departments up and down the coast have recently taken a hardline stance against black market cultivators. But despite frequent raids netting tens of thousands of plants nearly every week, light consequences under California’s cannabis legalization law have done little to deter the world’s most prolific pot growers.

“For us to use the search warrant process takes many manhours and there is not a lot of teeth behind it,” Stanislaus Sheriff Jeff Dirkse said. “We hope that with the administrative process, we will be able to abate more (illegal grows) more efficiently and effectively.”

For large scale growers, the new fines will get pricey quick. For a 1,000 plant grow, even one day of operation would see a $1 million fine, with that number multiplied for every day that the plants are not eradicated. In an example proposed by the Modesto Bee, a land owner operating a 3,000 plant unlicensed grow for just one month would owe the county $90 million if busted, whether by cops or county code inspectors.

The new protocol does have a provision for land owners to contest the fines against them, especially if landlords can prove that they were unaware of the cannabis grow being operated on their property. 

Officials estimate that there are more than 1,500 unregulated cannabis grows currently operating in Stanislaus County.

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