Fresno County reverses first marijuana ban fine

Fresno County counsel Dan Cederborg told Action News it was a tactical decision to withdraw this one fine. But he said it won't affect any other cases, and the county is still enforcing the ordinance.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014
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Fresno County has reversed course on the very first marijuana growing fine handed out by county supervisors.

FRESNO, Calif (KFSN) -- Fresno County has reversed course on the very first marijuana growing fine handed out by county supervisors.

"Plaintiffs are released from obligation to pay the administrative penalty to the county," said Fresno Superior Court Judge Dale Ikeda, reading from court documents.

Almost eight months after supervisors started fining landowners for the marijuana pulled off their property, the county withdrew the fine, just as an appeal was set to go to trial.

Fresno County sheriff's deputies tore down 43 marijuana plants on her property, and Phaith Holapatiphone found out it'd cost her $43,000. She sued, and on the day the case was set for trial, she found out she owes nothing.

"It states the resolution is hereby revoked and plaintiffs are released from obligation to pay the administrative penalty to the county," said Judge Ikeda.

Fresno County's ordinance calls for a $1,000 a plant fine for the owners of any property where outdoor marijuana grows are found. But there's a disagreement over whether the owners should get 15 days to remove the plants on their own, as state law requires.

Attorney Brenda Lnder represents the Holapatiphone family and several more land owners who have fought their fines in appeals before the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. She doesn't see the board's resolution to withdraw one fine as a true victory.

"A resolution by the board is not law and it's not enforceable by me or by my clients," she said. "A court order would be enforceable should they change their mind again."

Linder also said the county is just trying to avoid paying legal fees -- for her and the Orange County law firm hired to defend the county's ordinance. Those attorneys say the cancelation of the fine should put an end to this case.

"It is not going to be revoked nor can it be revoked," said Jeffrey Dunn. "It's a representation to the court at this proceeding that it's withdrawn. It is withdrawn and so the matter is moot."

Fresno County counsel Dan Cederborg told Action News it was a tactical decision to withdraw this one fine. But he said it won't affect any other cases, and the county is still enforcing the ordinance.