Most people who aren’t familiar with California cannabis regulation are surprised to learn that legal cannabis is actually pretty rare throughout the state. Most cities and counties prohibit or severely restrict cannabis licensing. This includes most cities in Los Angeles county, and until recently, the county itself. But that’s all changing, because LA County will allow cannabis in the near future.
Where LA County will allow cannabis
When we talk about LA County, we mean unincorporated areas of the county – not places like Santa Monica, Pasadena, the City of Los Angeles, etc., all of which currently license cannabis businesses. Unincorporated LA county is a massive chunk of land spread throughout the county – see here. These are the areas that will eventually allow cannabis licensing under the measures described below.
LA County and cannabis regulation
There have been cannabis laws in the LA County code for quite a while. In December 2021, the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) issued recommendations for a cannabis program. In doing so, OCM gave the County Board of Supervisors recommendations for creating a licensing and regulatory program. Some of these recommendations were geared towards social equity applicants, and OCM recommended only a limited number of overall licenses. On February 15, 2022, the Board of Supervisors issued an email media release that I’ll get into more below.
LA County moves forward; what the future may hold
Per yesterday’s release, as of February 15, 2022, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion directing OCM to start developing a licensing program. In doing so, the Board effectively approved of the recommendations. According to the Board’s media release, the OCM’s program will allow up to 25 retail, 25 delivery, 10 cultivation (indoor or mixed light only), 10 distribution, and 10 testing licenses. The priority will be for equity applicants.
Critically, LA County will allow an extraordinarily low number of licenses considering the size of unincorporated LA County. The City of Los Angeles, for example, has no present caps on certain license types and has allowed hundreds of retail storefronts and delivery licenses. Based on this announcement alone, we expect and can basically guarantee:
- Immensely competitive licensing – especially for the retail licenses
- A lot of “gaming” the system around social equity applications
- Litigation around the license issuance process
There’s not much public information yet about what LA County’s cannabis licensing process will look like, so please stay tuned to the Canna Law Blog. Our Los Angeles cannabis lawyers will continue to offer insights as LA County’s program is unveiled.