Northern California

Marijuana grower sues Yuba County over equipment seizure

The owner of a Sacramento cannabis dispensary is suing Yuba County for allegedly seizing and destroying $700,000 worth of grow equipment.

Justin Green, owner of Green Solutions in Midtown Sacramento, filed the suit last month against the county, Code Enforcement manager Jeremy Strang, Code Enforcement officers John Jacenich and Christopher Monaco, finance and administrative technician Melanie Marquez, and supervising building official Dan Burns.

On Aug. 14, 2017, after receiving reports of cultivation at Green’s property on Musholt Road, Yuba County Code Enforcement posted notice and orders to abate the plants and conducted an inspection without anyone present, according to the suit. Green owns the property and was leasing it to tenants.

The notice required Green to abate the plants and appear before the Yuba County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 22, 2017. Green attended the hearing and testified that he hired a crew to remove and destroy the marijuana plants with the exception of six plants, which, he believed, brought him in compliance with the notice. The county’s marijuana ordinance allows for indoor cultivation; state law allows for cultivation of up to six plants. Green’s property had 97 plants.

Green also informed the board he had started the permitting and approval process of accessory structures, and offered to perform any additional corrective actions. He also asked Code Enforcement to conduct a re-inspection to verify the abatement, according to the suit.

In response, the board thanked and commended him for taking corrective action, guaranteed an opportunity for re-inspection and said they would consider waiving any administrative penalties because he had taken such exemplary steps in correcting the nuisance, according to the suit.

As a result, Green was given until 5 p.m. Aug. 23, to remove any remaining plants and Code Enforcement would perform a re-inspection Aug. 24.

On Aug. 23 Green had removed all remaining plants and made multiple attempts to contact Code Enforcement, with no response. The morning of Aug. 24, Green was waiting for Code Enforcement to arrive for the re-inspection scheduled between 9 a.m. and noon. By 12:30 p.m. he called Code Enforcement and was told they would not make it that day and instead would stop by the property, verify the plants had been removed, and reschedule a full inspection. He then left.

Code Enforcement officers arrived around 30 minutes later, allegedly made forcible entry, and “commenced with destroying and seizing property,” according to the suit.

Though the original notice and orders from the board made no mention of violations relating to electrical wiring or the use of generators, officers allegedly destroyed and seized personal property under the guise of electrical and environmental violations, the suit alleges.

The warrant timed out and an extension was granted on Aug. 25 and officers returned to Green’s property. Green alleges that $700,000 worth of equipment was destroyed or seized: temporary greenhouses destroyed and seized; electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling equipment went missing; and two generators associated with his business went missing.

County officials have allegedly refused to supply information on how Green can recover his property and, despite Public Records Act requests, have not provided a complete list of the property.

In the suit, he alleges “(he) believes that all property seized has been converted for use by the county or personal use by individual county employees in this matter, including named and unnamed defendants.”

An amount for damages was not included, though the suit demands a jury trial where damages and restitution will be determined.

Yuba County Communications and Legislative Affairs Coordinator Russ Brown said the county cannot comment on items related to pending litigation.

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