Today, California’s three state cannabis licensing authorities released proposed emergency licensing regulations for commercial medicinal and adult-use cannabis. The regulations are intended to reflect the law that was set out in California’s Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), and will replace the draft regulations that were released for cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, retail and other activities in April 2017 (you can read more about the prior regulations in our post here). These regulations will allow the state to start issuing temporary licenses to conduct commercial cannabis activities on January 1. Our San Francisco and Los Angeles cannabis attorneys are analyzing the new regulations and comparing them to the previous draft and we will do a more in depth post on what has changed very soon.
On November 5th, the City Council of West Hollywood put an end to a long period of speculation about the future legal status of cannabis in their jurisdiction, moving to allow recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries, delivery services. In particular, the WeHo City Council approved of allocating 8 licenses per type of cannabis activity (Adult-Use retail, Consumption Areas with On-Site Adult-Use retail, Delivery Services, and Medical-Use dispensary,) and confirmed this decision on the morning of November 8th. These activity types are of interest in themselves: Allowing retail spaces to provide an area for on-site consumption means WeHo might soon be the home of hip, Amsterdam-style marijuana cafés.
While this explains quite a bit about West Hollywood's approach, some aspects of the city's regulations remain unclear. For instance, the exact selection process for the 8 licenses per activity has not been decided by the City Council. Moreover, the zoning regulations for marijuana businesses have also not been finalized by the city. To address these questions, the City Council of West Hollywood will meet again on November 20th to discuss zones and grading criteria for licenses. The City Council has given itself a deadline of December 6th to resolve these issues, which it hopes to meet before the new laws come into effect on January 1st.
As it stands, what our cannabis lawyers know about the future process for license application selection is as follows: The top eight applications will be issued licenses based on merit. Some of the criteria in consideration for "merit" will include compliance with the city's social equity program, operating a pre-existing cannabis business that's in good standing in WeHo, or previous experience with a cannabis business elsewhere in the state. Again, these criteria have been merely discussed and not approved. Once the criteria are fixed, the city will essentially grade each application based on the standards they establish.
Since relatively few licenses will be granted, it is imperative for any marijuana business applicant in West Hollywood to not only meet the criteria set out by City Council, but also to provide adequate reasoning for why its merits qualify it to be chosen over the other applicants. The application period will be open in January 2018 for a period of 30 days; since the timeframe is so short, if you're interested in starting a cannabis business in WeHo, it's important to get started on the application process now.
While there has been much debate over LA’s recent Draft Regulations, not much has been stated clearly about how to prepare for the LA license application process. You can read more about the draft regulations here, here, and here. Below is some guidance from our Los Angeles Cannabis Attorneys. As you know from our previous posts on SB 94, you will need City or County authorization in order to apply for a State License. The areas you can start preparing for fall into a few main categories: real estate, taxes, corporate documents and financial planning.
On September 22, 2017, the City of Los Angeles released Revised Draft Requirements for Commercial Cannabis Activity in the City. Our LA cannabis lawyers have analyzed the regulations and compared them to the June 2017 draft, and there are drastic differences that will affect large portions of the thousands of cannabis operators within the City.
The major change is that only dispensaries will be allowed to apply first - under Priority licensing - to the City. Originally, cultivators and manufacturers that could prove they had been operating since before January 1, 2016, were going to be able to apply along with dispensaries who had a 2016 or 2017 business tax registration certificate from the City (BTRC). Now, all cultivators and manufacturers will apply in the Social Equity or General Processing round, which will be held at the same time.
The number of dispensaries that will qualify for priority has been expanded to include dispensaries in compliance with the current medical marijuana laws that have a 2015 or later BTRC, in addition to those that have a 2016 or 2017 BTRC (the original group that would receive priority). You can read more about the prior draft here.
Additionally, cultivators and manufacturers who could prove operation before 2016 under the June regulations were going to be able to receive certificates of compliance that allowed them to continue operating. This is no longer the case. Only dispensaries that are preexisting and meet the criteria will be authorized to continue operations under the current draft.
Under California’s SB-94 (aka MAUCRSA), the retail sale of marijuana products to consumers is only legal if the business owner holds a license for cannabis distribution. Since this covers all sales of cannabis products, from marijuana proper to derivatives like hash oil and CBD, these licenses are in high demand. Many clients often ask our cannabis lawyers what happened to the Transportation license. This was a license type under the MCRSA but that provision was repealed in SB 94 and the activities covered by the old Transportation license have now been merged into the Distribution license. So, the state license is now for the same activity but under a different name.
In order to qualify for the state license, your business must first hold a local license (or local authorization), which can only be granted by the municipality the business intends to operate in. For those eager to enter the world of cannabis distribution, the question is: which cities are giving out these licenses? Here are a few cities that have distribution in their ordinance and are either already issuing distribution licenses or are on the road towards doing so:
- California City
- Cathedral City
- Desert Hot Springs
- Long Beach
- Los Angeles (expected* but we will have to wait for the Ordinance to be sure)
- Nevada City
An ordinance does not necessarily mean that it will be easy to secure a license. Many cities put heavy restrictions on how many distribution licenses will be granted, and the regulations that must be complied with are robust.
Regarding Los Angeles, all indications appear that LA will allow this cannabis activity. However, the City has until September 30th to promulgate an ordinance, and we will not know for sure until we see the final version. The fact that they have included distribution in the draft location ordinance (which you can read more about here and here) and in the operating requirements suggests that they will. Stay tuned for updates from our LA cannabis attorneys as the City’s local regulations take shape.