California Cannabis Countdown: Sonoma County Starts Accepting Commercial Medical Cannabis Applications Tomorrow!

Sonoma County cannabis lawsCalifornia has 58 counties and 482 incorporated cities across the state, each with the option to create its own rules or ban marijuana altogether. In this California Cannabis Countdown series we’re updating Sonoma County because Sonoma County will begin accepting applications for commercial medical cannabis businesses on July 5th at 8am (enjoy your 4th of July but be ready bright and early to get your application in at the permit center).

Our last California Cannabis Countdown post was on the City of Davis, and before that the City of Santa RosaCounty and City of San BernardinoMarin CountyNevada County, the City of Lynwood, the City of CoachellaLos Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles, the ,City of Desert Hot Springs, the City of Sacramento, the City of BerkeleyCalaveras CountyMonterey County and the City of Emeryville.

Welcome to the California Cannabis Countdown.

The 411 on Sonoma County. We should start off by stating that Sonoma County is only accepting applications for medical cannabis businesses — recreational cannabis businesses are still prohibited but may be considered by the Board of Supervisors in the future. But starting on July 5th, Sonoma County will begin accepting applications for medical cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, dispensaries, and distributors. Here’s some important information (not an exhaustive list) for those interested in operating a medical cannabis business in Sonoma County:

  • Permits will not be limited to local cultivators. However, local cultivators operating prior to 2016 with a local hiring plan will receive priority processing.
  • An individual or entity can apply for multiple medical cannabis cultivation permits, so long as their total combined cultivation area does not exceed an acre (nurseries are considered cultivation and will be included in the one acre limit).
  • An individual or entity can hold a medical cannabis cultivation license and apply for a medical cannabis manufacturing permit (non-volatile) or other medical cannabis business.
  • Stand alone delivery services will not be allowed – deliveries will only be allowed as part of a medical cannabis dispensary use permit.
  • Sonoma County will cap the number of medical cannabis dispensaries at nine. There are currently five permitted dispensaries and three applications currently pending.
  • If you granted the Sonoma County Agriculture and Open Space District (“District”) an easement then you can say goodbye to your hopes of operating a medical cannabis cultivation site on your property. The District collaborates with the Federal Government and it will not risk the potential for federal enforcement.
  • Edible cannabis manufacturers and dispensaries will require a health permit with the County Environmental Health and Safety Division on top of a minor and conditional use permit.
  • Edible cannabis products cannot be designed to appeal to children or include other addictive substances (such as tobacco or alcohol), and must list ingredients and allergens. They must also indicate serving size, servings per container, and have a host of warning labels (font size could be an issue when it comes to packaging).
  • Taxes for medical cannabis manufacturers and dispensaries will be based off of gross receipts. Medical cannabis manufacturers will have to pay a 3% tax while medical cannabis dispensaries will be taxed at 2%. Medical cannabis cultivators will be taxed per square foot. Taxes will range anywhere from $1.00 to $11.25 per square foot depending on the cultivation license type.
  • On May 23rd, 2017, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors passed a Code Enforcement Temporary Penalty Relief Program which allowed certain cannabis businesses to operate without being subject to land use fines while their permit applications are being reviewed.

Sonoma County should be considered a progressive and enlightened jurisdiction for its sensible cannabis regulations and well-informed staff (unlike many other parts of California). With skyrocketing real estate prices in San Francisco and Oakland, our Bay Area attorneys are seeing increasing interest in opening up cannabis businesses in Northern California and Sonoma County.

Well played Sonoma, well played.

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California, Licensing