Board Takes Steps to Approve Cannabis Ordinances
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a set of cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution ordinances creating a regulated local cannabis industry that protects neighborhoods and the environment while enhancing public services.
Tuesday's unanimous vote is the culmination of several years of local planning and public input, a period which included the creation of the Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee, California voters' approval of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act and a lengthy environmental review process.
The ordinances establish rules to cover key aspects of the cannabis supply chain involving cultivation, manufacture and distribution that protect public safety and include strict land use requirements, subjecting growers for the first time to licensing requirements and conformance with relevant state and local laws, including environmental, land use, building, and other regulations.
With restrictions and limitations, the ordinances allow for indoor cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution operations in commercial areas, as well as indoor or outdoor cultivation, manufacture and distribution on large agricultural and rural lots. Dangerous practices such as neighborhood "whole-house" grows are prohibited, while practices such as solvent-based extraction methods are strictly regulated.
To protect small growers, the Board added a "Cottage Garden" license category for operators in continuous cultivation since before January 2013. Cottage Garden licenses are available for parcels of at least 2.5 acres and allow a canopy of up to 500 square feet on A, RA, TP and SU zoned parcels.
Individual applications will receive site-specific environmental review, be required to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and if not exempt from CEQA, must include any appropriate mitigation measures identified through the environmental review process.
The Board took a number of steps to protect neighborhoods and encourage responsible operations, including adoption of supplementary Best Management and Operational Practices requirements and an Enforcement Plan. It also allowed for increased review, including public hearing, prior to approval of outdoor cultivation projects if proposed cultivation would be located within the mandatory 400 foot setback from neighboring residences. Complaints may be made to the Cannabis Licensing Office, and the Board will receive quarterly reports on cannabis licensing operations. The Board also voted to protect existing timberlands from being converted to cannabis farms.
To assist with licensing and enforcement activities, the Board had previously reduced cannabis business taxes from seven percent to five percent for cultivators and manufacturers through 2019, gradually rising to seven percent by 2022. Forms related to cannabis business taxes are available online at the Santa Cruz County Treasurer-Tax Collector's website, available at www.santacruzcounty.us.
As part of the enforcement plan adopted Tuesday, the County's existing Cannabis Enforcement Team will be expanded, focusing on unlicensed activities in the unincorporated areas and existing businesses that have exceeded their licensing authority. Enforcement will include an anonymous process for complainants to report possible violations and there will be public disclosure of data regarding the type and number of complaints received, as well as the location of open cannabis code enforcement cases.
All cannabis licenses will be subject to annual renewal and site inspections. Periodic unannounced inspections may also be performed.
MAY 8, 2018 WILL BE THE SECOND READING OF THE ORDINANCE PACKAGE BY THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS. 30 DAYS AFTER THIS DATE, THE ORDINANCES WILL BE IN EFFECT.
BE ADVISED THAT UNTIL THE ORDIANCES ARE FORMALLY ADOPTED THEY ARE NOT YET IN EFFECT AND ANY INVESTMENT OR ACTION ON THE PART OF THE INDUSTRY TO ACQUIRE PROPERTY FOR POSSIBLE FUTURE CANNABIS ACTIVITIY IS A RISK.
FURTHER, NO NEW CANNABIS BUSINESS ACTIVITIES OR EXPANSION ARE ALLOWED UNTIL ANNUAL LOCAL AND STATE CANNABIS BUSINESS LICENSES AND LAND USE PERMITS HAVE BEEN OBTAINED.
Registration for commercial cannabis licenses closed in the fall of 2016. There is no anticipated date of a Phase II registration at the time. Please check into this website on a regular basis to monitor changes.
Please note that the registration requirement is voluntary for those parcels located in the Commercial Agriculture (CA) zone district with a documented history of over 3 years of commercial farming or agricultural production unrelated to cannabis production. These properties would still require a license to cultivate cannabis commercially, however registration is not a prerequisite to apply for a license.
For those seeking a priority place in line for cultivation licensing, voluntary pre-licensing inspections are available. Once final rules are established for commercial cannabis cultivation and if your property remains eligible for a license under the final rules, staff will prepare a detailed report tailored to your cultivation site’s unique characteristics and note all items to be addressed in advance of the start of licensing inspections. If interested in a pre-licensing inspection, direct an email to Michael Sapunor at CannabisInfo@Santacruzcounty.us.
State Licensing Requirements
In addition to a local license for Commercial Cultivation of Cannabis, licensees MUST ALSO obtain a state license to legally operate in the State of California. For more information visit California Department of Food and Agriculture CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing.
Current Medical Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance - SCCC 7.126
Santa Cruz County Code SCCC 7.126 Medical Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance is presently in effect. See legislation HERE. However, please note that as of January 1, 2018, State law does not allow commercial cannabis cultivation of ANY KIND to operate without a State cannabis cultivation license. Click here for more information. Therefore, if you do not have your State (temporary) cannabis cultivation license, no commercial cannabis cultivation is currently allowed. This includes cooperatives and the like.
If you are operating with a State Temporary License, all cannabis grown commercially in the County of Santa Cruz is subject to these rules and restrictions until a replacement law is adopted (see top of page for details). Please review the current rules to ensure the parcel you wish to cultivate cannabis on qualifies and meets the current requirements. If in doubt, please call the Cannabis Licensing Office or come to the County building at 701 Ocean Street, Room 520, Santa Cruz, ask for our staff.
Personal Use Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance (Non-Commercial Cannabis)
The Board of Supervisors has adopted SCCC 7.134 which regulates Personal Cultivation of Cannabis for Non-Commercial Recreational Use. Review this legislation to determine what and where you can cultivate cannabis for your personal use.