Local Medical Marijuana Cultivation & Possession Guidelines in California

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UPDATE 11/16 - Prop. 64 to legalize recreational use and cultivation of marijuana has brought over 50 localities (and probably more) passing or considering local regulations. Under Prop. 64, all Californians can grow up to 6 plants per parcel of land for their personal use. Local jurisdictions may ban outdoor cultivation, but may not ban growing 6 plants indoors or in a “secure” location (they can, however, "reasonably regulate" it). Patients with a doctor's recommendation can still grow more plants if needed, provided their local jurisdictions will allow it.

See CannaBusiness Law's interactive map of medical marijuana regulations by county. (These affect only unincorporated areas of a county; cities within those counties may have different regulations.) A source for detailed local ordinance information and analysis is CannaRegs.

Key Government Websites:
Bureau of Cannabis Regulation
CDFA Medical Cannabis Cultivation Program
North Coast Water Board Cannabis Program
Central Valley Water Board Cannabis Program

2/17/2016 - This page formerly listed ordinances that were in place before January 1, 2016. We are now tracking over 400 localities where cultivation bans have passed or been proposed, due to the erroneous and now-repealed March 1 deadline in the state MMRSA regulations.

Arguably these are “placeholder” ordinances retaining locals' right to license and regulate once MMRSA is fully implemented. We are working on strategies to challenge the bans, and encouraging local action to start the process of developing regulations instead.

If your locality is not listed at our spreadsheet, or for updated information, you can find their code by Googling the name of the city or county plus the word "code" and then searching for marijuana or cannabis. However not all of the online listings are up to date and you should also check your city or county's council or board meeting agendas at their websites for the latest ordinances. Searching at the Facebook Ban Watch page is another way to find out what's happening in your city or county.

Absent a local ordinance, state law will allow 100 square feet of medical cannabis for a patient, and allow caregivers to grow 500 square feet for up to five patients. State licensing for commercial-sized medical marijuana farms is allowable under the new law, provided locals approve. Existing entities can operate with local approval until January 1, 2018. Read more and contact a Cal NORML legal committee attorney.

Also see: ASA's Local Access Project, their model ordinance protecting commercial cultivation, and their memo for local lawmakers.

Appeals Court Rules Marijuana Growers Can't Be Criminalized by Local Ordinances

The CA Board of Equalization has issued a special notice to growers and sellers of medical cannabis telling them that they are required to register and file returns. There is no charge for registering with the BOE. Note that growers do not have to pay sales taxes on products that they sell to retail dispensaries and collectives, provided the latter have a BOE resale permit. However, they are required to report their sales to the BOE. Cal NORML strongly advises all parties involved in the marijuana industry to register with the BOE if they are interested in becoming legal providers under California law.

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has issued an order for cannabis cultivation and similar activities along with Best Management Practices.

The Central Valley Water Board has also issued a general order about marijuana cultivation Read more.

Marijuana pesticide guidelines issued by State of California April 8, 2015

State Water Resources Control Board Cannabis Enforcement Unit page

On November 26, 2013, the Third District Court of Appeals upheld the city of Live Oak’s ban on medical marijuana cultivation. California NORML supported a court challenge to the Live Oak ruling, but the California Supreme Court refused to hear the challenge.

Cities and counties across the state have moved to establish zoning regulations for medical cannabis cultivation. In many cases, these are driven by complaints from neighbors who don't like the sight or smell of marijuana, or by public officials with overly punitive attitudes. Public safety concerns have been raised, and there have been a few incidents of violence around marijuana gardens. While there may be a need in some cities to require greenhouses or other security measures for gardens, in rural areas and in whole counties, there is no justification for outlawing outdoor marijuana gardens. Any patient who is impacted by planned or existing local ordinances can write to CalNORML.

Also see California Association of Counties ordinance page.

Some doctors are charging clients extra for so-called "cultivation licenses" supposedly entitling them to grow more than the normal number of plants. There is no such thing as a "cultivation license" under California law. Any patient with a California physician's recommendation may legally cultivate or possess as much marijuana as they need for their own personal medical use, and no more. No physician can authorize them to cultivate more (they can only testify in court that a certain amount of marijuana is consistent with the individual patient's needs, and they do not have professional competence to prescribe plant numbers).

Also see: Attorney Omar Figueroa's local guidelines page

Back In the Closet: California medical cannabis patients are increasingly being forced to hide behind closed doors as bans on dispensaries and home cultivation sweep through the East Bay. East Bay Express April 30, 2014

On May 15, 2015, facing both a Cal NORML-supported lawsuit and a voter referendum, Clearlake city council voted 5-0 to repeal their medical marijuana cultivation ban. On June 12, the city voted in a new ordinance allowing 6-48 outdoor plants, depending on the size of the parcel.

Our old page with local ordinances can be seen on the Wayback Machine. The information there is not necessarily up to date.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing on Cal NORML's site should be substituted for bone fide legal advice. See a list of attorneys.