Santa Cruz County Takes Another Step Toward Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation

Santa Cruz cannabis regulations
Santa Cruz is in the forefront of California cannabis

We wrote last week about the City of Santa Cruz’s efforts in adopting and implementing adult-use cannabis regulations, and on Tuesday, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow the twelve existing legal medical marijuana dispensaries in the County to sell adult-use cannabis as well. The dispensaries will of course need a state license in addition to local approval, but this move by the County will position these dispensaries to be among the first in the state able to apply for adult-use retail licenses come January 1st.

Santa Cruz County now joins a very small list of California jurisdictions that have taken proactive steps toward implementing adult-use cannabis regulations. Most California cities and counties are still waiting for guidance from the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), which is not set to release proposed state rules governing both adult-use and medical cannabis until mid to late November. Without guidance from the state, local governments have been reluctant to put resources into drafting cannabis regulations when those state rules could necessitate substantial revisions.

Both Santa Cruz City and County have been working to stay at the forefront of cannabis industry development. I had the opportunity to attend the City of Santa Cruz Planning Commission meeting last week, and the Commission voted to propose that the City Council make certain amendments to the proposed ordinance:

  • Additional privacy protections for retail store managers, including removing the requirement that managers’ addresses be public information;
  • Clarification that multiple cultivation licensees can operate on the same premises, so long as they are separate and distinct, and meet all other state licensing requirements; and
  • Rather than prohibiting deliveries from outside the City of Santa Cruz, expanding this restriction to allow for deliveries from retail stores anywhere within Santa Cruz County.

There was some talk about opening up the downtown retail core to cannabis businesses, and reducing the buffer from 600 feet to 300 feet, but the Commission ultimately decided these would be changes to discuss down the road, after the licensing program had been established and operating. Santa Cruz’s City Council is scheduled to read its proposed ordinance on November 14th, after reviewing the Planning Commission’s recommendations. The City of Santa Cruz will cap the number of available retail licenses at five, with the two existing, legal medical dispensaries having priority for adult-use licenses. And Santa Cruz County, which has moved to give its twelve existing dispensaries priority for adult-use licenses, has authorized only fourteen dispensaries as eligible for licenses. According to the County, they do not anticipate licensing additional dispensaries for either medical or recreational cannabis at this time, although that could change with upcoming rules implementation.