Bill targeting illegal marijuana growing could leave unsuspecting landlords in lurch

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An Assembly bill intended to curb illegal marijuana cultivation could have unintended consequences for landlords whose tenants secretly set up growing operations in their units.

Under AB 2164 by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, individuals accused of violating local cannabis laws – including tenants and their unsuspecting landlords — could face fines and other penalties without first getting a chance to appeal and remedy the problem.

Assemblyman Ken Cooley

The legislation is intended to deal with marijuana growers who violate local laws but avoid fines by simply picking up and moving their operations elsewhere, effectively curing the violation before fines can be levied.

“AB 2164 allows, but does not require, local governments to amend their ordinances to remove the time period to correct a violation in cases of cannabis cultivation only,” Cooley has said, according to a bill analysis. “This removes at least one monetary incentive for illicit grows to continually move while also giving local governments the ability to bring meaningful penalties on willfully illegal growers.”

The California Apartment Association is working with Cooley to protect landlords who are unaware of unlawful cannabis-related activities in their units.

“While we agree that individuals or businesses that violate local laws should face fines and/or penalties, there should always be a right to appeal for property owners who have no knowledge that their tenants are violating local and state laws relating to cannabis,” CAA and other business groups write in a letter to Cooley.

Under AB 2164, a local government’s option of removing the time to fix problems before fines would only apply to cannabis-related violations. Local jurisdictions would still have to allow individuals to avoid fines by quickly correcting non-cannabis-related problems that pertain to building, plumbing, electrical, or other similar structural or zoning issues when they do not create an immediate danger to health or safety.

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