- Posted by Laura Croft, Esq
- On September 27, 2016
- breaking, dispensaries, law, licensing, MCRSA, MMRSA, regulations, Sonoma County
Presently, Sonoma County only issues permits for dispensaries which do not allow for onsite cultivation, consumption, or delivery. However, these stringent regulations are set to change. Sonoma County is forging ahead with a comprehensive marijuana ordinance, set forth in the Sonoma County Marijuana Land Use Regulations Work Plan, which will include commercial distribution, transportation, and delivery, in addition to cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis for medical use.
Cannabis Dispensaries in Sonoma County
In March 2007, the Board of Supervisors enacted Ordinance 5715, amending the zoning code to regulate and permit medical cannabis dispensaries as a conditional use within certain commercial zoning districts, and setting minimum location and operational standards.
In 2012, Sonoma County adopted another amendment to the zoning code establishing a maximum limit of nine dispensary permits within the unincorporated area of the County. Sonoma County Code Section 26-88-126. Pursuant to the ordinance, a medical marijuana dispensary may be permitted to distribute medical cannabis to qualified patients and caregivers subject to a use permit within certain commercial zoning districts. Use permits for Medical Cannabis Dispensaries are limited, and are only issued for a maximum period of one year.
The ordinance delineated additional requirements, including safety measures; sign requirements; operator and employee requirements; alcoholic beverage restrictions; exhaust and ventilation requirements; as well as hours of operations. Moreover, no dispensary may conduct or engage in the commercial sale of any product, good or service unless otherwise approved by the Use Permit. Dispensaries are not permitted within 100 feet of residential zones, and not within 1000 feet of schools, parks or any establishment that primarily serves people under 18.
Moving forward into 2017, Sonoma County is considering several license types, as only qualified patients or primary caregivers who cultivate no more than 500 square feet (or 100 square feet for each qualified patient) will be exempt from commercial licenses. While MCRSA, AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643, replaces cooperative and collective cultivation and activity with licensed commercial cultivation, growing cooperatively/collectively remains a defense to prosecution until the State’s licensing scheme is implemented in January 1, 2018.
On the horizon is a set of ballot measures to legalize marijuana recreationally statewide, similar to measures that have passed in other states. Sonoma County’s march towards commercial licensing is laying the framework in the event that a more general legalization takes place. Licensing is Sonoma will be critical starting early 2017.