California bill would make unlicensed cannabis cultivation a felony

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One California lawmaker is hoping to recriminalize unlicensed cannabis cultivation with the introduction of a measure that would make it a felony to grow more than six plants without a permit.

Assembly Bill 1725, by Thurston Smith, a Republican assembly member from San Bernardino County, would change the penalties for unlicensed cannabis growing from a misdemeanor to a felony.

If the bill were to succeed, law enforcement would have new tools at its disposal with which to fight the illicit market.

Misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine – though first-time violators usually are only fined – while felonies are punishable by 16 months to three years in jail.

Smith said he introduced the bill to combat the enormous illegal grow operations that have cropped up in recent years in various parts of California.

“These illicit growers have been operating with impunity, knowing that the law allows them to grow with barely a hindrance,” Smith said in a news release.

“For far too long, (state lawmakers in) Sacramento (have) been soft on crime, and the illicit market has exploded with massive unlicensed grows popping up all around the state.”

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The bill faces a tough road ahead, and its success is far from guaranteed: The Republican-drafted bill in a Democratically dominated Legislature would need two-thirds support in both the assembly and Senate in order to pass.

And there’s no indication that Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, would support such a measure.