The California Cannabis Countdown: The City of Lynwood

Lynwood CannabisCalifornia 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 plan to cover who is banning, who is waiting, and who is embracing California’s change to legalize marijuana — permits, regulations, taxes and all. For each city and county, we’ll discuss its location, history with cannabis, current law, and proposed law to give you a clearer picture of where to locate your cannabis business, how to keep it legal, and what you will and won’t be allowed to do

Our last California Cannabis Countdown post was on the City of Coachella, and before that, Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles, the City of Desert Hot SpringsSonoma County, the City of Sacramento, the City of BerkeleyCalaveras CountyMonterey County and the City of Emeryville.

Welcome to the California Cannabis Countdown.

Lynwood may soon be the first city in Los Angeles County to permit cannabis cultivation and manufacturing. In an area where bans against cultivation are widespread and well-enforced, this would be a groundbreaking move for the City and for growers in Southern California.

Location. The City of Lynwood is an incorporated city located in Los Angeles County. Demographically, the City has gone through several changes in the past century though now the City is primarily Latino with over 86% of the population reported as Hispanic or Latino in a 2010 Census.

History with Cannabis. On September 6, 2016, the Lynwood City Council voted in favor of an ordinance which would permit the cultivation and manufacturing of medical marijuana in the City.

Proposed Cannabis Laws. The Lynwood City Council conducted an initial reading of an ordinance intending to “permit business activities related to the cultivation and manufacturing of medical cannabis subject to obtaining a permit with the city and satisfying all applicable local and state protection measures and rules.”

If the ordinance passes, it would make Lynwood the first city in Los Angeles County to permit marijuana cultivation under the new state regulations that went into effect earlier this year under the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA). As we discussed in our California Cannabis Countdown post on Los Angeles County, there is currently a ban on nearly all marijuana activities within unincorporated areas of the County, including medical marijuana cultivation. Among the incorporated cities in the County, some have allowed marijuana dispensaries to operate but so far none have begun permitting cultivation, including the City of Los Angeles. In our California Cannabis Countdown post on the City of Los Angeles, we explained that the City does not currently permit any medical marijuana businesses to operate within its boundaries but instead grants limited immunity from prohibition to businesses that are able to meet certain criteria. In both the County and the City of Los Angeles, enforcement of these bans is a serious matter and the risks are high for any illegal marijuana businesses.

The different approaches to regulation in Lynwood, Los Angeles County, and the City of Los Angeles reflect the growing patchwork of local ordinances emerging throughout the state of California. Under the MCRSA, local municipalities retain the authority to pass more restrictive medical marijuana regulations including instituting outright bans. This November, besides deciding whether to legalize recreational marijuana use under Prop 64 (aka the Adult Use of Marijuana Act), California voters will also have the opportunity to vote on 62 local marijuana measures across various cities and counties.

The draft ordinance approved by the Lynwood City Council would allow the city to permit five local businesses. Any permitted businesses would be required to be located at least 600 feet away from schools, daycares, and youth centers, and at least 50 feet away from any residential zones. However, the buffer zones between potential marijuana businesses and schools could be extended to 1,000 feet, based on a proposal from Lynwood Mayor Aide Castro. The Mayor stated that while she would approve cultivation in Lynwood around the Alameda Corridor, she doesn’t want Lynwood to become the “next Humboldt County.” Instead, the ordinance is intended to allow the City to bring in local tax revenue and to control cultivation at a local level.

A second reading is schedule for September 20, at which time the City Council will decide whether to approve a final ordinance. The vote approving the initial reading was close at 3-2 in favor, with the dissenting council members arguing that the City should wait to see the results of the vote on Prop 64 before moving forward. If both the Lynwood local ordinance and Prop 64 pass this year, medical marijuana businesses permitted under the local law are expected to be grandfathered into the City’s new recreational marijuana permitting system.

Despite LA county’s generally highly restrictive stance on cannabis, our California cannabis lawyers are still getting a large number of calls requesting advice on how to start and operate a marijuana business in Los Angeles County. So far, we have had to tell callers they are better off looking elsewhere if they want to start a legal medical marijuana grow, but that may all be changing now. In a week, we should know whether Lynwood plans to take its place as the first city in Los Angeles County to approve cultivation permits for medical marijuana businesses. After that, it could be just a matter of time before neighboring cities within the County begin opening up their boundaries to California growers as well.