Our California cannabis lawyers are constantly asked how big sales and tax revenues will be in California once adult use cannabis becomes legal there. With recent reports of increased sales in Colorado and Nevada, everyone is expecting California – with its population of nearly 40 million people – to dwarf the sales of other adult use cannabis states. Many see California sales exceeding Colorado and Washington sales (together!) by at least ten times. To say our law firm is bullish on California would be an understatement; we literally cannot find good lawyers fast enough for our two California offices (Los Angeles and San Francisco).
When Californians voted for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (a/k/a AUMA or Prop 64), you could smell the enthusiasm. Our California offices were deluged with a flood of investors looking to invest in California cannabis businesses. Then Governor Brown and the California legislature removed Prop 64’s in-state residency requirement with the enactment of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (a/k/a MAUCRSA or SB 94) this past June. With residency requirements removed, my firm saw a significant increase in interest from clients outside California seeking to obtain cannabis business licenses in the Golden State.
Unfortunately, local legislators in California’s cities and counties have not kept pace with the enthusiasm on the business side. Prior to SB 94, the legal cannabis landscape consisted of California jurisdictions focused on their medical cannabis ordinances in step with the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act of 2015(MCRSA). The MCRSA was California’s first attempt at establishing a statewide regulatory and licensing regime. The MCRSA also allowed medical cannabis businesses to operate as for-profit businesses starting in 2018.
With most local jurisdictions playing catch-up with the MCRSA, it’s unlikely Californians will be able to purchase recreational cannabis on January 01, 2018. That’s because most California cities and counties are waiting on the state’s main cannabis regulatory agencies – the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Department of Public Health – to publish their emergency regulations before they enact their own adult use cannabis ordinances. The emergency regulations should be released in mid to late November and the Bureau of Cannabis Control has stated that cannabis businesses will be able to apply for temporary permits online in December.
Though it might take a little longer than expected before adult use cannabis sales in California become commonplace, we are seeing local regulators moving in the right direction. In our Cannabis Countdown series, we keep our readers apprised of cannabis ordinance developments on the local level and the below is an updated snapshot of what’s going on across the state regarding adult-use commercial cannabis activities:
On March 07, 2017, Los Angeles residents came out in full force and voted for Proposition M, a much-needed effort at clearing up Los Angeles’s previously confusing, complicated, and unfriendly position towards medical cannabis businesses. On June 8th of this year, the Los Angeles City Council released draft requirements for commercial cannabis activities – which we covered here. After the release of these draft requirements, there was a 60-day comment period and on September 22nd, the City Council revised the draft requirements – which we covered extensively here. On September 25th the City Council Rules Committee requested the Los Angeles City Attorney prepare and present a draft ordinance addressing the changes made in the revised draft regulations. Though Los Angeles will authorize seed to sale license types (indoor cultivation, non-volatile and volatile manufacturing, distribution, and retail) it’s unlikely it will have an adult use cannabis permitting process in place by the start of 2018.
The city of San Francisco (where I am located) proposed draft cannabis legislation on September 26th of this year. The proposed legislation requires creating an equity program, authorizes the issuance of temporary local licenses for medical cannabis businesses, and will have seed to sale license types (including the microbusiness license). It also allows for medical and adult use cannabis licenses, but adult use licenses won’t be issued until the equity program is in place. The ordinance does not cap the number of permits to be issued citywide, nor does it limit the number of licenses a person can hold – except that testing licensees cannot hold other cannabis licenses. However at a recent stakeholder meeting I attended, it was discussed that the Board of Supervisors (BOS) may revisit the issue of licensing caps (at the individual applicant and citywide level). It’s paramount that cannabis supporters stay politically active and fight complacency — don’t let what happened in San Luis Obispo happen in your city. San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis is to provide the BOS with an equity report, a medicinal access report, and a proposed fee schedule by November 1st of this year. Much like Los Angeles, San Francisco has proposed a cannabis-friendly ordinance that likely will not be ready for 2018.
As part of the famed Emerald Triangle, Humboldt County is a cannabis business-friendly jurisdiction. On September 7th, Humboldt County’s Planning and Building Department released a draft cannabis ordinance that provides for the following:
- Licenses all seed to sale commercial activities (including non-volatile and volatile manufacturing);
- Allows farm-based retail sales, subject to receiving a retailer’s license from the state (we’ll have to see what the Bureau of Cannabis Control has to say about that);
- Authorizes temporary special events for cannabis sales and consumption;
- Allows on-site consumption for retailers and microbusinesses (for persons 21 years of age and older); and
- Allows for cannabis tours and cannabis farm stays.
This proposed ordinance cements Humboldt’s reputation as a place that thinks outside the box when it comes to attracting cannabis businesses. Humboldt’s proposed ordinance was up for review and public comment on October 18 and we expect its enactment by early December. We are not sure whether Humboldt will allow current medical cannabis businesses to convert over to adult use and for-profit enterprises before January 01, 2018.
Related Story: California’s 5 Worst Counties for Recreational Marijuana
Though some of California’s biggest population centers will take their time before enacting adult use cannabis ordinances, we envision some of the more sparsely populated (and tax-starved) California jurisdictions will be the first to move into the adult use cannabis marketplace.
We will be sure to keep you posted on new developments in our Cannabis Countdown series.
Habib Bentleb is an attorney at Harris Bricken, a law firm with lawyers in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Barcelona, and Beijing. This story was originally published on the Canna Law Blog.