Most Sacramento-area cities, as well as the county, prohibit dispensaries and all commercial marijuana activity.
CaNORML’s Summary of MAUCRSA provides information about this law, and their Advice for Cannabis Businesses and Cultivators has additional details of its requirements.
Marijuana use, possession, and distribution is still illegal under federal law. 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. This complicates many aspects of the business, including leasing property, banking and complying with tax law, in addition to the potential for prosecution.
Local rules on dispensaries and businesses
Buying, using, and distributing medicinal marijuana has been legal in California since 1996 (see our article “Medicinal Marijuana Laws” for more). In 2016, California passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalizing the use and cultivation of marijuana for adults over 21.
Landlords can prohibit smoking and cultivation in rented residences. If you live in federally subsidized housing it is grounds for eviction for illegal activity, since it’s still illegal under Federal law. For lots more on landlord-tenant issues, see Cannifornian’s “Ask An Attorney: Can my landlord forbidden me from growing marijuana at home?”
Federal decriminalization is a priority of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. (“Schumer: Senate will act on marijuana legalization with or without Biden,” April 3, 2021, by Natalie Fertig, Politico.com.) The House of Representatives in April passed the “Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021,” which, if it passes the Senate, will protect banks from liability for handling money from the marijuana trade. (“Cannabis Banking: The Safe Banking Act 2.0 Passes the House of Representatives,” April 20, 2021, National Law Review.)
Producing and selling marijuana
State regulations for both medicinal and recreational purposes are now finalized, and production and distribution licenses are being issued. You can check licenses at the Bureau of Cannabis Control website. Local cities and counties continue to regulate medicinal and recreational marijuana growth and distribution as well.
The Cannifornian website has a great tool for quick reference to the ordinances in all California cities: Local Cannabis Laws Database. County information can be found at the California State Association of Counties and the CanniBusinessLaw website.
This is the section that describes how an individual may legally cultivate cannabis in their residence, and the limits placed on their right to do so.
This final section applies to the City’s right to abate illegal cannabis cultivation. It begins by describing a number of reasons why illegal cannabis cultivation is a bad thing; it leads to crime, such as burglary and home invasion, can pose fire hazards and risk of failure of electrical systems and can pose public health hazards from the use of solvents or the production of hazardous waste. The section then goes on to recognize that illegal cannabis cultivation is a public nuisance.
There are 6 specific, sequential sections in chapter 8.132 that deal with residential cannabis cultivation, section 8.132.010 through 8.132.060. Each of them addresses a different aspect of the issue.
Because this is an unsettled area of the law, there are a number of different defenses that can be raised, but it is not yet certain what effect, if any, each potential defense may have. Some defenses may be more viable than others, and some may be available in some cases, but not others. An experienced attorney is probably your best shot at raising the defenses that have the highest probability of success, a few of which are:
Amount of Administrative Penalty:
This is not a well-settled area of the law, and the precedent for it is still being litigated in the courts. A case of this nature will very likely require more than simply claiming you were unaware of cannabis cultivation on your property. Because of that, having an experienced attorney who can pursue every angle, and make the most impactful arguments will likely give you the best chance of avoiding having to pay a large administrative fee for something you took no part in.
*indicates the city has a cannabis equity program (or is in development of one)
(C) Any cannabis cultivation in violation of this chapter is also subject to the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act (Division 10 of the California Health and Safety Code), including the provisions in Chapter 8, (commencing with Section 11469) relating to the seizure, forfeiture, and destruction of property.
County Board of Supervisors
(E) Cultivation is not conducted in a manner that constitutes a public nuisance. A public nuisance may be deemed to exist if the cultivation produces light, glare, heat, noise, odor, or vibration that is or whose effect is either detrimental to public health, safety, or welfare or interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of life or property; or if cultivation is deemed hazardous due to the use or storage of materials, processes, products, or wastes.
Sect. 6.88.050 – Personal Cultivation Restrictions
CA State Senate