California Cities Argue Statewide Pot Delivery Undermines Local Law
California law allows local governments to ban cannabis retailers in their jurisdictions, but prevents them from blocking legal deliveries to residents.
Published on August 14, 2018

Recreational cannabis sales have been legal in California since January 1st, but the final rules governing this commerce are still a moving target. The state's Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) has been constantly tweaking the state's regulations in response to industry leaders and local government officials, who are often at odds over how strictly the state needs to control this budding new industry. This week, the issue has come to a head once again, as a coalition of city governments is challenging the state's regulations on marijuana deliveries.

The BCC is considering amending the current regulations to include a provision stating that “a delivery employee may deliver to any jurisdiction within the State of California,” reports KPBS in San Diego. However the League of California Cities, an association of Golden State municipal officials, is urging BCC to back off on this proposed change, contending that it will undermine local governments' ability to control their local cannabis industries.

Proposition 64 — the ballot measure which legalized recreational cannabis in California —  allows individual municipalities within the state to ban cannabis businesses from their jurisdictions. In a letter to the BCC, the League argues that the delivery provision would allow "cannabis delivery anywhere in the state, regardless of conflicting local regulations or bans," reports the Associated Press. “An influx of unapproved local cannabis deliveries will decrease transparency of cannabis operations and increase public safety obligations and costs for local law enforcement.”

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells said that the city's government has “been against the proliferation of cannabis in El Cajon from pretty much every perspective,” according to KPBS. "Proposition 64 was pretty clear that part of the trade off was cities would be able to have some control over how marijuana is dispensed. We think that this new push to allow delivery inside the city is really outside of the spirit of (Proposition) 64 which in essence takes away our local control."

The BCC has said that the proposed change is not a new rule, but merely a clarification of guidance already included in Proposition 64. The law currently states that "a local jurisdiction shall not prevent delivery of cannabis or cannabis products on public roads" by a state-licensed canna-business, reports the AP. The state legislature recently proposed a bill to officially clear up any confusion by specifically allowing marijuana businesses to deliver anywhere within California, but the bill stalled in the state Senate.

While that legislation remains on hold, the legality of statewide cannabis delivery remains on uncertain footing. The BCC is willing to hear the cities' complaints, and is welcoming all public comments on new regulations until August 27th. The bureau plans to take this commentary into account as it drafts a final set of cannabis regulations for the Golden State by the first week of December.  

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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