Sacramento City Council approves funding to crack down on illegal home-grown marijuana

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday approved funding sources for increased law enforcement against illegal indoor pot grows, following a two-month pilot program that led to the closure of 614 pot houses.

The city expects to spend between $700,000 and $1.1 million on police efforts to stop the approximately 1,000 illegal grows in Sacramento houses in the fiscal year ending June 30.

The city will pay those costs with tax revenue collected from legal marijuana businesses, which are expected to start operating sometime after Jan. 1, when adults can purchase pot for recreational use statewide. The city plans to supplement that tax revenue with administrative fines collected from illegal pot growers.

Councilman Steve Hansen said it’s important that the city make a strong statement in its opposition to illegal grows as it prepares to usher in legal adult-use marijuana. Illegal marijuana cultivation can make it harder for legal operators to stay in business and also deprives the city of tax revenue.

Sacramento city officials say the grow houses create suspicion and fear among neighbors and have been responsible for violence, including armed robberies and fatal shootings.

The Police Department led a 60 day-pilot program that started with the city sending warning letters to 959 suspected illegal grow houses.

Police and other city officials inspected 614 of those properties. Marijuana was removed from those properties by the Fire Department.

Police Capt. Dave Peletta said previous enforcement efforts might have been like playing “whack-a-mole” because closed operators would reopen somewhere else in town. But he thinks illegal operators are more wary now that the city has a $500-per-plant fine for violators.

The city has issued $7.8 million in administrative fines for those grow houses. It has collected $25,000.

The City Council also received an update Tuesday about the city’s long-term plan for enforcement of legal and illegal marijuana businesses. Joe Devlin, chief of the city’s Office of Cannabis Policy and Enforcement, is directing those efforts.

The city plans to use 54 employees who will be dedicated to marijuana enforcement, Devlin told the council. The employees will work in a wide range of positions, including 12 police officers, four sergeants, one captain, eight code enforcement employees, four building inspectors and 11 administrators.

Some of those employees have been hired already, while other positions need to be filled. The annual labor costs are expected to be $6.8 million, all of which will be paid by permit fees, Devlin said.

Positions will be filled as the fees are collected. Devlin expects to collect permit fees for cultivation, retail sales and other marijuana business activities starting Jan. 1.

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