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American Canyon landlords must pay cannabis fine

cannabis grow

American Canyon police found more than 1,900 cannabis plants growing inside a house last May. The Planning Commission on Thursday denied the homeowner's appeal of the resulting $5,000 fine. The above photograph of the home's interior was included in the commission's materials.

Owners of an America Canyon rental home where police found 1,916 cannabis plants will have to pay a $5,000 civil fine, even though they said they didn’t know what their tenant was doing.

Nim Cho Wu and Wendy We appealed the matter to the American Canyon Planning Commission. The commission decided last week that city rules dictate the fine must stand.

We told the commission that the tenant cited the pandemic as a reason to keep her from inspecting the inside of the house.

“Everything seems normal from the outside,” We told the commission. “They only stayed there for about six months. I didn’t know they were doing this. Otherwise, I would stop it. The problem is, the COVID-19 makes (it) difficult to do this.”

No matter. Staff told the commission that city law left only two questions to be determined — whether Nim Cho Wu and Wendy We owned the house and whether the alleged violation took place.

This framing of the situation left little wiggle room for the commission to grant the appeal, even if it had been so disposed. No one disputed the ownership or violation questions.

“Even without inspection is the legal obligation to maintain a structure in a safe manner and in compliance with the law,” City Attorney William Ross said. “That’s the starting point. That’s the baseline.”

It would be up to the City Council to change the standards by which the Planning Commission must judge such appeals, he said.

Police on May 17 were notified of a possible home invasion on Pelleria Drive after a neighbor heard noise. They responded and found the house had vertical bars across the doors and windows on the inside. They found the 1,916 cannabis plants inside, city officials said.

Police arrested a suspect at the scene, a city report said. But the civil fine is a separate matter from a possible criminal case.

Nim Cho Wu and Wendy We in a letter to the city described themselves as a pair of “pitiful seniors” who didn’t know what the tenant was doing. They couldn’t check inside the home because of the pandemic.

“Now the house has no income, but we still need to pay the big loan, pay property tax (of) almost nine thousand dollars per year to the county,” their letter said.

The Planning Commission first held a meeting on the appeal on July 22. However, this was a teleconference-only meeting because of the pandemic and commissioners were unable to clearly hear Nim Cho Wu’s and Wendy We’s testimony.

Thursday’s session — also by teleconference — went quickly, with Wendy We’s testimony clearly heard. Commissioners didn’t debate the matter, given the two criteria they had to determine weren’t contested.

American Canyon allows residents to grow no more than six cannabis plants in a house. The fine is $200 per plant per day for seven to 20 plants and $500 per plant per a day for plants over 20. If it wasn’t for a $5,000-per-day cap, the fine, in this case, would be $957,500, a city report said.

The Pelleria Drive case involved alleged violations besides having too many cannabis plants. Among them were using an extension cord in the cultivation room, not having a ventilation and filtration system to keep cannabis odors from being detectable offsite and not having a portable fire extinguisher in the cultivation room, a city report said.

Health experts often champion the benefits of drinking at least eight glasses of water per day. But it seems that maintaining hydration not only aids general wellbeing, but potentially also reduces the risk of people developing heart failure.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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