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California Cannabis Countdown Update: Santa Rosa

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California cannabis marijuana
Lookin’ good!

One of the most common questions our California cannabis attorneys get asked is “where can I start or expand my cannabis business?” It can be a tough question: as we often say on this blog, every one of California’s 58 counties and 482 incorporated cities can decide whether or not they’ll authorize commercial cannabis activities in their jurisdictions. This means that California’s local jurisdictions are constantly discussing whether to regulate, amend, or prohibit commercial cannabis activities. Jurisdictions that had previously authorized medical cannabis businesses to operate are now considering how to regulate adult-use cannabis activities. This leads me to the recent (and positive) developments in Santa Rosa.

As part of our California Cannabis Countdown series we covered the city of Santa Rosa back in May. Shortly after our post, Santa Rosa residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of Measure D, which was a ballot measure setting tax rates for cannabis businesses. Santa Rosa takes its cannabis policy seriously, as the city has held over twenty (20!) meetings to discuss cannabis policy over the last two years. Many of the meetings were held by the city’s Medical Cannabis Policy Subcommittee (“Committee”).

Since inception, the Committee has solicited feedback from the community and interested stakeholders and provided guidance to the City Council. To its credit, the City Council and Planning Commission showed a willingness to incorporate the Committee’s findings into new cannabis ordinances. Specifically, the City Council passed ordinances that allowed medical cannabis cultivation (indoor only), non-volatile manufacturing, distribution, and laboratory testing in Santa Rosa. This was a welcome development after seeing what happened in Marin County, Santa Rosa’s southern neighbor.

While moving forward with regulating medical cannabis business activities, the next item on the Committee’s agenda was adult-use cannabis regulation. The Committee drafted a comprehensive cannabis ordinance that would regulate both medical and adult-use cannabis businesses. However, when the ordinance was first proposed at the end of June it did not include provisions for adult-use commercial cannabis activities. Though after the passage of Senate Bill 94 (a/k/a the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act), the City Council added adult-use cannabis activities to the ordinance. The updated ordinance was first “noticed” in November, approved on December 19th, and will take effect on January 19, 2018.

Without further ado, then, here’s a breakdown of the types of medical and adult-use cannabis activities allowed in Santa Rosa:

  • Cultivation (only indoor for commercial cultivation although outdoor cultivation for personal use is allowed subject two a two plant limitation).
  • Manufacturing (non-volatile and volatile).
  • Distribution.
  • Retail.
  • Delivery.
  • Microbusiness.
  • Testing Laboratory.

And here are some important things to keep in mind, under the new ordinance:

  • Cannabis businesses that have already received approval to conduct medical cannabis activities can incorporate adult-use activities into their permit with a zoning clearance.
  • Multiple cannabis business permits can be issued per site so long as there is a clear separation between license types.
  • The transfer of ownership or operational control of a cannabis business is allowed if the new owner/operator receives a zoning clearance from the city.
  • For cultivators square footage is determined by the size of the structure instead of by canopy.
  • Cannabis manufacturers that utilize a closed-loop system with will require approval from the city’s building and fire departments.
  • Only licensed cannabis retailers can conduct deliveries. The delivery-only dispensary model is currently not available.
  • Dispensaries may only operate between the hours of 9:00am and 9:00pm and are prohibited from having an on-site or on-staff physician to provide a cannabis recommendation.
  • On-site consumption and cannabis special events are allowed with the appropriate city approval.

Given Santa Rosa’s dedication to the conversation on cannabis, and the actual text of its new ordinance, we can safely way that the city is shaping up as a cannabis friendly jurisdiction (unlike these tough locales). Next, we will see how efficiently the city can administer its new marijuana ordinance come January 19th. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.