Judge Tosses Humboldt Class Action Lawsuit Against County’s Cannabis Cultivation Fines

A U.S. magistrate judge has tossed the class action lawsuit brought by several Humboldt County landowners who claimed they were wrongfully fined by the county for growing cannabis without a permit.

Full story after the jump.

A U.S. magistrate judge has thrown out the class action lawsuit filed by landowners in Humboldt County, California who claimed the county fined them hundreds of thousands of dollars – without an investigation or opportunity to defend themselves – for allegedly cultivating cannabis without a permit, Courthouse News reports. The five landowners filed the lawsuit in October 2022. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Illman dismissed the lawsuit in full and did not give the plaintiffs leave to amend.

“Despite the FAC’s length, overlooking its irrelevant content, and its conclusory and implausible assertions – and in light of the materials of which the court is taking judicial notice – it becomes clear that the underlying facts do not, and simply can not, entitle these plaintiffs to any relief against these defendants.” — Illman, in the order, via Courthouse News

The plaintiffs claimed after California legalized cannabis for adult use, the county created an abatement program to fine landowners that have “committed traditional nuisances and permitting violations” to grow cannabis without a permit. However, the plaintiffs argued the county blindly correlates code violations with the assumption of cannabis cultivation which exponentially increases the fines from initial violations. The plaintiffs also claimed that the county based some of its allegations of illegal cannabis farming off “crude arial images” without probable cause.

One of the plaintiffs claimed he was fined $90,000 for growing cannabis but he was actually growing vegetables for his restaurant. Illman ruled that the county had actually dropped most of his fines about a week before the class action lawsuit was filed.

In the dismissal order, Illman used the term “implausible” to describe the plaintiff’s claims about 20 times. In an interview with Courthouse News, Jared McClain, the attorney for the plaintiffs, of the Institute of Justice, argued that the lawsuit “didn’t allege anything” that they “weren’t going to be able to prove a trial” and that the county “doesn’t even deny” a lot of what is alleged in the complaint.

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