A proposed law, Assembly Bill 3208 sponsored by Assemblymember Jim Cooper, which would have granted the City of Elk Grove special powers with regard to civil forfeiture was effectively killed in the California Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday April 17. Bill 3208 would have allowed Elk Grove to seize property confiscated in the city’s ongoing battle against illegal marijuana grow houses.
Assembly District, supports this bill with several colleagues. “According to statistics from the USDA, California was a hot spot for illegal indoor grows in 2016, with police seizing 312,000 representing 75-percent of all plants taken by law enforcement across the U-S. And I’ll repeat myself, that was representing 75-percent of all plant grown indoors [nationally], taken by law enforcement, were taken here, in Sacramento and Elk Grove.” Jim Cooper also mentioned that the bill would help a civil rights issue in that some people of color live in certain neighborhoods with grow houses and can’t do anything about it. He said that this bill would help communities “adversely affected by illegal activities.”
Elk Grove Police Captain Timothy Albright said that over 1000 grow houses were estimated to be in operation in Elk Grove and Sacramento. He emphasized that the battle is ongoing and that grow houses keep appearing “on new residential streets.”
However, the five members of the California Assembly Public Safety Committee did not move to vote on the legislation. Essentially, this failure to act means that the bill has been prevented from further legislative consideration.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, and the California Land Title Association all spoke in opposition to the proposed bill. One reason cited for opposing the bill included past abuses of civil forfeiture laws by law enforcement and the existence of Federal forfeiture laws.
In 2015, Eric Holder ended “adoptive forfeiture.” This occurs “when a state or local law enforcement agency seizes property pursuant to state law and requests that a federal agency take the seized asset and forfeit it under federal law” due to abuse. Some people who spoke cited ways in which law enforcement in the past abused the law to seize houses from innocent property owners who shouldn’t have had their land seized. In addition, there also exists the issue of seizing a family home, thereby negatively affecting all members of the family, even those who had nothing to do with an illegal grow house. In the face of such strong opposition, it seemed that no committee members felt they could advance the bill.
After everyone had spoken, Committee Chair Reginald Bryon Jones-Sawyer (Democrat – Los Angeles) asked. “Will any of the present committee members make a motion to support passage of the legislation?” Important to note, no member moved to make a motion to support the passage of the legislation. Hence, the proposed bill was killed in the committee in which it was proposed. It remains to be seen whether Jim Cooper will attempt to put forward another version with a similar bill in the future.