To the excitement of many, California’s Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) does not include a residency requirement akin to those we’ve seen in other states, like Washington. Though in theory this could change, such an about face is unlikely given the proposed rules that dropped a few weeks ago. And though Chapter 5, Section 26054(a) of Proposition 64 (dealing with recreational cannabis regulation) does contain a residency requirement, it is likely the medical and recreational cannabis rules will ultimately be synced, eliminating that requirement. For reference, however, that section of Proposition 64 states:
“[n]o licensing authority shall issue or renew a license to any person that cannot demonstrate continuous California residency from or before January 1, 2015. In the case of an applicant or licensee that is an entity, the entity shall not be considered a resident if any person controlling the entity cannot demonstrate continuous California residency from and before January 1, 2015.”
That residency requirement will expire on December 31, 2019 unless the California state legislature renews it. Also important to note is that even if this residency requirement were to go into effect, it would apply only to “controlling persons.” But again, we believe that as the medical and recreational cannabis rules are finalized and synced up, the residency requirements of Proposition 64 will be eliminated.
But this has not stopped local jurisdictions, including cities and counties, from implementing varying levels of residency requirements, or de facto residency requirements, on their own. For example cannabis licenses in the City of Los Angeles will likely be limited to state residents since the City is issuing first round licenses only to Proposition M Priority eligible applicants (i.e., the ~135 Pre-ICO cannabis collectives currently operating in the City under Prop. D immunity from prosecution). In theory, at least, the proprietors of these businesses, who would have been required to possess qualified patient authorizations, would have needed to be California state residents. In other words, the City of Los Angeles is limiting licenses to those who have operated locally since at least 2007, which functions as de facto localism.
Los Angeles’ proposed regulations also require applicants provide a detailed plan for hiring local residents, including making an “ongoing good faith effort to ensure that at least 30 percent of hours of their respective workforce be performed by residents of the City of Los Angeles, of which at least 10 percent of their respective workforce shall be performed by Transitional Workers whose primary place of residence is within a 3-mile radius of the proposed Business.”
The city of Oakland has developed what is perhaps one of the most contentious residency requirements via its Equity Permit Program. This program aims to address inequity in the local cannabis industry by prioritizing permit issuance to those with roots in certain identified Oakland neighborhoods that have been historically impacted by disproportionate drug law enforcement, and to members of the Oakland community who have been arrested and convicted of cannabis crimes in Oakland in the last 20 years. The law moves qualifying Equity Applicants, defined as Oakland residents with an annual income at or less than 80% of the City average and who either lived in certain defined Oakland police beats for 10 of the last 20 years, or who have been convicted of a cannabis crime committed in Oakland within the last 20 years, to the front of the cannabis permitting line, and it also creates access to approximately $3.4 million in earmarked interest-free business loans and other assistance.
When issuing permits for any kind of cannabis business, the City must give half (i.e. maintain a 1-to-1 ratio) of all permits issued in its initial issuance phase to these Equity Applicants. Oakland local law also requires dispensary staff be at least 50% Oakland residents, with at least half of those residents from areas identified as having high unemployment or low household incomes.
Other local jurisdictions are implementing or considering similar means of enacting residency restrictions, despite the state’s leniency on the issue. It is therefore imperative to review the local laws under which you intend to operate, particularly if you are not a California state resident.