Medical Cannabis Regulations
At its hearing on December 6, 2016, the Board of Supervisors was presented a regulatory outline that could be used by County staff to develop specific Zoning Ordinance amendments governing the permitting of commercial medical cannabis businesses in the unincorporated area. The Board directed staff to refine the outline so that it reflects a "go slow" approach and reach out to stakeholders to obtain further input. In response, a revised Regulatory Outline has been developed and is now available for public review and comment. A copy of the revised proposed regulatory outline may be viewed here. This outline was presented to the Board of Supervisors on March 21, 2017. At that hearing the Board of Supervisors took no action. At this time, the matter is not scheduled for further review or hearings. Commercial medical cannabis activities continue to be prohibited within unincorporated Ventura County.
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has conducted public hearings over the past year to discuss the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) and the development of medical cannabis regulations for unincorporated Ventura County. The Board has heard from members of the community that there is a need for medical cannabis within the county to help residents address a myriad of serious medical conditions. In an effort to address this need, the Board of Supervisors directed that medical cannabis regulations be developed that meet the following objectives:
- Promoting public health and safety, and protecting quality of life for all residents.
- Ensuring safe and practical access by residents with a demonstrated medical need.
- Reducing the size of the illicit market for cultivation and retail sale.
- Preventing non-medical access and use by youth.
- Reducing environmental harm to water, habitat and wildlife.
- Minimizing operational impacts to neighbors and the general community.
- Providing clear criteria for responsible businesses and patients who wish to operate within the law.
To further guide the development of medical cannabis regulations, the Board directed that the regulations reflect a “go slow” approach, where allowed activities are kept small and limited in number. This approach is intended to give the County the opportunity to gain experience regulating medical cannabis businesses and ensuring the above objectives can be met without negative impacts on the community. It is important to note that this effort is related to medical cannabis only; the Board of Supervisors has taken no action nor directed staff to develop any regulations related to adult use (recreational) cannabis.
The MCRSA, and the requirements associated with the recently passed Proposition 64 (Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or AUMA), establish minimum standards for commercial medical cannabis activities. These standards address location, staffing, packaging, ownership, testing, record keeping and security, among other issues, and will be further refined through upcoming state permitting rules and regulations. Any regulations adopted by the County Board of Supervisors are required to, at a minimum, meet these standards. For example, state law requires that commercial medical cannabis businesses be at least 600 feet from schools, parks and youth centers; therefore, while the County is allowed to adopt regulations with a greater required distance, it cannot permit a medical cannabis operation closer than 600 feet from one of these facilities.
At its hearing on December 6, 2016, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to engage industry stakeholders, patients and the broader community in the development of a more refined approach to regulating commercial medical cannabis activities in the unincorporated areas of Ventura County. In January, 2017, interested stakeholders were contacted to seek their input and suggestions regarding the draft regulations. The County received numerous comments and many of them have been incorporated into the Draft Regulatory Outline discussed above under “Current Activities”.
Prior to that December meeting, an initial series of community meetings were held in late May, 2016, to provide the public an opportunity to share your concerns and suggestions for ensuring safe access in a manner consistent with the objectives outlined above. A copy of the presentation from the first meetings may be viewed here. County staff received numerous comments and suggestions from the many residents who attended these meetings. Based on the previous direction given by the Board of Supervisors, the comments received from residents in the community meetings, and the regulations established in the MCRSA and AUMA, County staff developed the draft preliminary regulations that were presented to the Board on December 6, 2016. A copy of those draft preliminary regulations may be viewed here. The preliminary regulations were presented to the Board on December 6, 2016.