A Sacramento property owner was hit with a $500,000 fine after his tenants purportedly violated a little-known local ordinance related to marijuana cultivation.
For more than a decade, Rodney Rose has rented out his North Sacramento home to a nice elderly couple with no problems — that is, until the couple decided to let their nephew move in.
The nephew began growing marijuana at the home without first getting a license from the City of Sacramento, and that’s when Rose ran into trouble.
SMUD, the utility company that serves the neighborhood where Rose’s tenants live, noticed a spike in electrical usage at the home in question. They tipped off local authorities, and the Sacramento Police Department raided the property.
What happened next came as a surprise to everyone involved.
“I was not made aware of this, until I received a bill in the mail, from the city of Sacramento, which I thought was a joke,” Rose told local TV station FOX40.
That bill was for $500,000, a fine the City of Sacramento said Rose owed for allowing an unlicensed marijuana cultivation operation to occur on his property.
Rose called city officials, but was told his window of opportunity to appeal the fine had closed. Eventually, he secured an extension of his time to appeal, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and city government all but shut down.
When things started to open back up, he was given a hearing via Zoom. An administrative judge ruled against him, saying homeowners could violate the ordinance as it was written at that time, even if they didn’t know about it.
That’s since changed, according to legal expert Mark Reichel, who told FOX40 News that city officials changed the law in late 2019 so that homeowners could invoke an affirmative defense that they didn’t know about marijuana growth on their property.
“Now, innocent owners can give proof that they were an innocent owner, that they didn’t know anything about this,” Reichel said, adding that the City of Sacramento’s ordinance is still one of the toughest in the state and that it generates a significant amount of revenue for the local government.
Rose is now taking his case to state court, where he hopes to dispose of the fine once and for all. He says the tenants he rented to are helping him in the process, and even told police that Rose had no knowledge of the growth operation.
“I knew nothing of this ordinance that the city has — I’m just shocked that’s how they wish to conduct their business,” he said.