YUCCA VALLEY — The Town Council unanimously voted to eliminate its permitting requirements for home-grown marijuana Tuesday without a single resident commenting.
When Mayor Robert Lombardo called for public comments during the public hearing, no one sought the microphone.
The public hearing was set after the planning commission approved the changes to the town’s ordinance on personal marijuana cultivation last month.
In a divided vote, the commissioners voted 3-2 to move ahead with the plan to eliminate marijuana permit requirements. The commission meeting also had only a handful of people in the audience and just one public comment.
Commissioner Margie Trandem, who voted “yes,” recalled last month the debates on the topic during previous years.
“I remember seeing this room full of people,” she said.
Now, with the council confirming the changes, residents will no longer have to get a permit before growing the six marijuana plants permitted by state law.
Councilman Merl Abel said Tuesday night the commissioners should be applauded.
“I appreciate the planning commission doing a good job,” Abel said. “I am pleased to see the revisions being made.”
Councilman Rick Denison agreed, adding that reducing litigation risks for the town is a wise move.
The city of Fontana lost a lawsuit in November 2018 that could have direct impact on communities like Yucca Valley.
The American Civil Liberties Union of California and the Drug Policy Alliance sued Fontana over its strict regulations, which included background checks, home searches and a $411 permit fee for home cultivation.
A judge ruled against the city, ordering it to change its restrictions and pay $106,916 in legal fees.
Yucca Valley Deputy Town Manager Shane Stueckle told planning commissioners the Fontana case could be troubling for the town.
“Parts of our ordinance would not pass muster due to that Fontana case,” Stueckle said last month, adding that the town needs to have no “unnecessary regulations” on personal cannabis cultivation.
Commissioners Mathew Thomas and James Henderson, who both voted against removing the permit requirements, said at the time they worried about “odor complaints” and the fact that cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.
Thomas and Henderson both attended Tuesday’s Town Council meeting but did not speak publicly.
The Town Council also discussed opposing Assembly Bill 1356, which could require all local jurisdictions whose voters supported Proposition 64, which includes Yucca Valley, to issue a minimum number of local licenses for retail cannabis shops.
“It goes to the heart of local control,” said Town Manager Curtis Yakimow. “It is a dangerous precedent for sure.”