Legislation Extending Time for Prosecuting Cannabis Grows on Illegal Timberland Conversions Passed Senate Committee
Senator Mike McGuire’s legislation that extends the length of time CalFire investigators and local District Attorneys can prosecute rogue cannabis grows passed its first Senate committee. This legislation is critical to protect pristine California forestland from illegal clearing during timber to cannabis conversions, destroying watersheds and polluting drinking water supplies and killing wildlife. The bear-like mammal, the Fisher, is close to [extinction] due to the practices of rogue cannabis growers.
Illegal timberland conversion to cannabis violations have jumped over 200 percent since the passage of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) in 2015, rising from 30 in 2015 to 99 in 2017 and over the last 20 years, thousands of acres of California forestland have been illegally converted.
This sharp increase in Forest Practice Act violations from illegal conversions of timberland for cannabis cultivation operations has restricted the ability of CalFire investigators to pursue rogue cannabis grows. To make matters worse, the current statute of limitations makes it extremely difficult for CalFire investigators to become aware of a potential violation, investigate it, prepare a report, and then refer the matter to a District Attorney or the Attorney General’s Office so that a civil action can be filed in time.
Senator McGuire’s SB 1453 extends the statute of limitations for illegal conversions of timberland to agricultural uses from one year to three years, upon the discovery of the illegal clearing which is a critical change that will assist in prosecuting these offenses.
“These illegal conversions are polluting our pristine watersheds, threatening our drinking water supplies, killing wildlife and ushering in near irreversible harm to California’s beloved forests,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “SB 1453 will give CalFire investigators and prosecutors the time they need to successfully throw the book at these rogue growers who are destroying our forests and it provides authorities time to address these terrible acts.”
SB 1453 is modeled after previous action by the legislature, which has already created a three-year statute of limitations for other similar violations, such as violations of a Fish and Wildlife streambed alteration permit, which often occur in conjunction with violations of the Forest Practice Act & Rules.
The bill is supported by a broad coalition including California District Attorneys Association, Sierra Club, Save the Redwoods, The Nature Conservancy, and many others. SB 1453 passed Tuesday afternoon in the Senate Judiciary Committee with a bi-partisan vote.