Cannabis 101

Local Control of Cannabis Regulations

Personal Cultivation
(Section 11362.2 of the Health and Safety Code)

  • MAUCRSA allows for personal cultivation of up to 6 plants at a private residence.
  • Cities or counties may not completely prohibit indoor personal cultivation but may “enact and enforce reasonable regulations.”
  • Cities or counties may prohibit outdoor personal cultivation. However, should the federal government determine cannabis to be legal in California, outdoor personal cultivation cannot be completely prohibited.

Local Commercial Licensure
(Section 26000 et seq of the Business and Professions Code)

  • Commercial cannabis businesses must have BOTH local approval and a state license to operate. (§ 26032)
  • Local jurisdictions have substantial authority to regulate commercial cannabis within their jurisdiction including local zoning and land use requirements, business license requirements, and requirements related to reducing exposure to secondhand smoke. (§ 26200)
  • All local jurisdictions shall provide the State Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) a copy of any ordinance regulating commercial cannabis and must provide a contact for state authorities.  If no contact is provided, the clerk of the legislative body of the local jurisdiction will become the contact person. (§ 26055)
  • Local jurisdictions must notify the BCC upon revocation of any local license, permit, or authorization. (§ 26200)

Zoning and Buffering

  • State mandated sensitive use buffering defaults can be increased or decreased by a local jurisdiction.
  • Sensitive-Use Restrictions: State defaults are 600 feet distance between any licensed cannabis business and a school grades K-12, daycare, or youth center.
  • Local jurisdictions can increase or decrease this distance and can add other sensitive locations such as drug rehabilitation centers, residential neighborhoods, houses of worship, parks, etc. Overly restrictive buffers may result in a de-facto ban or may result in an undue concentration in some neighborhoods with available real estate.
    • For the greatest impact, buffer distances should be applied to sensitive locations across jurisdictional lines
  • Businesses can be further restricted to certain planning zones. The State does not specify any default zones for commercial cannabis businesses.

On-Site Consumption
(Section 26200 of Business and Professions Code)

On-site consumption can be permitted on the premises of a retailer or microbusiness if all the following standards are met:

  • Access to the consumption area is restricted to 21+.
  • Consumption is not visible from any public place or nonage-restricted area.
  • Sale or consumption of alcohol or tobacco is not allowed on the premises.

(Section 26090 of the Business and Professions Code)

  • A local jurisdiction cannot block the use of public roads in its own area for delivery to other areas.
  • Local Ban: local jurisdictions that wish to prevent delivery services from operating within their borders must enact an ordinance.
  • By default, delivery from outside into a jurisdiction is allowed. Jurisdictions should enact an ordinance and require registration of businesses for tax collection purposes.

Additional Regulatory Considerations

Phased-In Permitting
This type of permitting allows for more control over the number of licensed businesses in a local jurisdiction, as it is more difficult to reduce the number of businesses than it is to expand the number of available local permits.

Development Agreements
Many jurisdictions include development agreements as part of a licensing application.  Such agreements can serve as way of increasing revenue or drawing investment back into community.

Social Equity Programs 

  • Social equity programs typically reduce barriers to entry to the commercial cannabis market or provide other benefits or assistance to communities and individuals most impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Equity programs are often the result of studies and reports that analyze the disproportionate impacts of cannabis law enforcement in disadvantaged communities and identify common barriers to entry into the cannabis industry such as lack of startup capital, lack of available real estate, lack of skills training, and prior drug-related convictions.
  • Policy options for equity programs include, but are not limited to, equity-specific applicant criteria (or fees in lieu of meeting the criteria, which can fund aspects of an overall equity program), community reinvestment, workforce development, financial and capital access, technical assistance, stakeholder engagement, public awareness and education, incubator or industry partnering, fee waivers for equity applicants, and assistance with cannabis-related criminal record expungement.

State Law and Commercial Cannabis Regulations

Proposition 215

  • Medicinal cannabis has been legal in CA since 1996 under Proposition 215 and was later supported in the CA State Senate by SB 420.
  • Under Prop 215, medical patients and caregivers will still be entitled to grow however much is required for their personal medical needs as long as they are compliant with local laws and ordinances and are 18+ with a CA-licensed physician’s recommendation.

Proposition 64: The Control, Regulate and Tax Adult of Marijuana Act (AUMA)

  • Passed by CA voters in November 2016, recreational cannabis has been legal in CA since January 1, 2018 under Proposition 64.
  • Under AUMA, there is no medical recommendation required to purchase, possess, or grow cannabis if you are 21+, however personal cultivation is limited to six plants per residence.
  • An individual can purchase up to 1 oz per day per retail location.

SB 94 Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA)

  • While Proposition 64 made adult-use cannabis legal, the CA State Senate introduced SB 94, known as MAUCRSA, to streamline the cannabis regulatory system, so that recreation and medicinal cannabis could be governed under the same laws.
  • Prior to the passage of MAUCRSA recreational and medicinal cannabis were governed under different laws.
  • This CA State Senate bill combined the medicinal and adult-use cannabis regulatory frameworks.
  • Both medicinal and adult-use cannabis commercial activity requires separate licenses from a local jurisdiction and the State in order to be MAUCRSA compliant.
  • If you are 21+ no medical recommendation required to purchase cannabis.
  • A consumer can purchase up to 1 oz per day per retail location.

All State Agency Cannabis Regulations

On June 4, 2018, the State regulatory agencies readopted emergency commercial cannabis regulations, with some changes, which will remain in effect for 180 days or until permanent regulations are adopted.

See summaries and final texts of readopted emergency regulations here:

On July 13, 2018, the State regulatory agencies released proposed permanent commercial cannabis regulations. 

See information about proposed permanent regulations here:

Who Regulates Cannabis at the State Level?

Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC)

  • Housed within the California Department of Consumer Affairs, the BCC is the lead state agency for developing regulations for medicinal and adult-use cannabis.
  • The BCC licenses and regulates the following:
    • Distribution: Licensee arranges for testing, checks for appropriate packaging and labeling, collects taxes, transports cannabis and cannabis products and may act as a wholesaler or transports only its own cannabis and cannabis products or transports for other licensees but does not perform any other distributor functions.
    • Retailer: Sells cannabis and cannabis products to customers (can be a storefront with or without delivery or non-storefront delivery only).
    • Microbusiness: Combination of at least three of the following: cultivation (<1,000 sq ft), manufacturing (Level 1, Type 6), distribution, and retail.
    • Testing Laboratory: Test cannabis and cannabis products for pesticides, contaminants, and concentrations of THC or CBD.
    • Cannabis Event Organizing – a cannabis event organizer is not authorized to cultivate, distribute, manufacture, or sell cannabis or cannabis products unless the organizer also holds a separate license to engage in such commercial cannabis activities.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CalCannabis)

  • Manages California Track and Trace System
  • CalCannabis licenses and regulates the following:
    • Cultivators: Numerous license types for commercial cultivators, ranging from specialty cottage to medium-sized grows.
    • Nurseries: Cultivation of cannabis solely as a nursery, including cloning and seed propagation.
    • Processors: A site that conducts only trimming, drying, curing, grading, or packing of cannabis and non-manufactured cannabis products.

California Department of Public Health (CDPH)

  • CDPH takes the lead on all issues related to manufactured cannabis safety.
  • Administers “Let’s Talk Cannabis” site, with information about responsible cannabis use
  • CDPH licenses and regulates the following:
    • Extraction: Extraction using volatile solvents like butane, hexane, or pentane) or non-volatile solvents or mechanical method (butter, oil, water, ethanol, or carbon dioxide).
    • Infusions: Using pre-extracted oils to create edibles and other infused products.
    • Packaging: Packaging and labeling of products in accordance with state regulations.
    • Shared: Works out of a shared-use facility that is held by a primary licensee and may conduct infusions, packaging and labeling, and extractions with butter or food-grade oils that can only be used in their own products.

California Department of Consumer Affairs, Division of Investigation

  • This enforcement unit was created to handle complex, criminal, and administrative cases relating to cannabis while enforcing Bureau of Cannabis Management laws and regulations that apply to all bureau licensees.

Medical vs Adult-Use/Recreational Cannabis

With the changes incorporated into the re-adopted State emergency regulations, medicinal and adult-use/recreational cannabis are now treated virtually the same by most State regulations.  Exceptions are detailed below.

Medicinal Cannabis vs Adult-Use/Recreational Cannabis

  • Existing, non-licensed medical marijuana collectives, which are currently authorized by state law SB 420, must close by January 9, 2019.
  • Both medical and adult-use/recreational licensees require separate licenses from a local jurisdiction and the State to be MAUCRSA compliant.
  • An A-license allows a licensee to engage in only adult-use commercial cannabis activity and an M-license allows a licensee to engage in only medicinal commercial cannabis activity
  • A licensee may conduct both adult-use and medicinal commercial cannabis activity on the same licensed premises provided the licensee holds both an A-designation and M-designation on the license or the identical type of commercial cannabis activity and the licensee conducts only one type of activity on the premises.
  • Medical cannabis products must be labeled with “FOR MEDICAL USE ONLY”
  • Cultivation for both adult-use/recreational and medical use can take up to 100 sq feet, but cannot be sold or distributed without a license.
  • Readopted State emergency regulations allow licensees to conduct business with other licensees irrespective of their M-designation or A-designation.

Medicinal Consumers

  • Adults 18+ with a California-licensed, physician’s recommendation and a State-issued medical marijuana identification card can purchase up to 8 oz per day, or as described in a valid physician’s recommendation.
  • Under Prop. 215, patients and their designated primary caregivers can possess and cultivate cannabis that exceeds the six-plant limit, under the recommendation or approval of a California-licensed physician and provided the amount does not violate local ordinances and land-use regulations.
  • Patients are exempt from paying sales tax with a CA State Medical ID card, but still subject to other taxes.
  • Patients can access to non-edible products with up to 2,000 mg of THC.
  • The limit for THC in edible medical cannabis products is 100mg per product with up to 10mg per serving.

Adult-Use/Recreational Users

  • Adult-use/recreational growers are limited to six plants per residence by AUMA
  • Adults 21+ may purchase cannabis products with no medical recommendation required.
  • Adults 21+ can purchase up to 1 oz of cannabis per day.
  • Adults 21+ can purchase to non-edible products with up to 1,000 mg of THC.
  • The limit for THC in adult-use/recreational edible cannabis products is 100mg per product with up to 10mg per serving.

Illegal Businesses Closure

Enforcement against unlicensed cannabis businesses remains a challenge in many jurisdictions across the County.  While direct enforcement against unlicensed facilities may succeed in closing a business, the result is only temporary as illegal operators simply change their business addresses and open right back up.  The County, and many cities in the region, are working to implement diverse strategies to combat illegal commercial cannabis activity.  The County is happy to partner with any other jurisdictions in efforts to reduce and eliminate the number of illegal cannabis businesses across the region. Enforcement requires a regional approach and coordination to avoid spill-over effects, such as illegal operators who are shutdown in one jurisdiction and simply relocate to another jurisdiction.

Potential Strategies

Public Education and Outreach: Education of key constituencies about the risks and concerns associated with unlicensed cannabis stores.

  • Education of consumers of the risks associated with shopping at illegal cannabis stores. Education could include participation in an “Authorized Cannabis Store” placard program to help consumers distinguish between legal and illegal cannabis stores.
  • Posting of warning signage at or near illegal cannabis stores.
  • Education of employees of cannabis businesses about distinguishing between legal and illegal stores and the risks of working at an illegal shop.
  • Outreach to commercial and industrial property owners, chambers of commerce, and real estate industry associations about the illegality of unlicensed cannabis activity on commercial properties.
  • Increased ease of reporting illegal cannabis facilities such as development of a smartphone application or online form to facilitate easy reporting.

Enhanced Direct Enforcement: Enhancement of the effectiveness of direct enforcement against unlicensed businesses by strengthening existing tools and developing new tactics designed to dis-incentivize operating an illegal cannabis business.

  • Disconnection of utility service, particularly for businesses with unsafe wiring or other life safety hazards, and those that are engaged in utility theft.
  • Administrative processes to allow the physical locking and sealing of an illegal cannabis businesses.
  • Promotion of a regulatory structure that would make illegal cannabis business operators ineligible for local licensing.
  • Local ordinances to increase civil penalties per day.
  • Creation of a multi-department cannabis inspection and enforcement team.

Legislative Advocacy: Advocacy for legislation that helps to deter the operation of illegal cannabis businesses and facilitates efforts to close such businesses.

  • Prohibition of advertising of unlicensed businesses on all platforms from digital to broadcast and print.
  • Establishment of dedicated judicial resources to expedite civil cases.
  • Identification of funding and other resources for enforcement and consumer education.

Strategic Partnerships: Development of partnerships between departments and other agencies involved in cannabis regulation, including protocols to support close collaboration and an open exchange of information with trusted partners.

  • Creation of a unified database of enforcement cases, to provide agencies with on-demand access to current information for any given case or location, and to facilitate reporting on summary-level statistics and trends.
  • Development of a cross-referral protocol with state agencies involved in cannabis regulation and enforcement, to ensure that the relevant agencies are automatically notified when a new enforcement case is initiated.
  • Participation in cross-jurisdictional forums for regulators to discuss enforcement strategies, emerging trends, identified needs, and other information on a regular basis.


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