California Cities and Counties Vote to Open Cannabis Businesses


The Apothecarium cannabis store in Berkeley, CA.

November 4, 2020 – As all marijuana reform measures in other states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) won voter approval in the November 3 election, voters across California approved nearly all of the local measures to allow, tax and regulate cannabis sales in their cities or counties.

Of 38 ballot measures in 36 cities or counties across the state on the November ballot, only six are losing at the ballot box, while most are winning by large margins. More than 60% of voters in the cities of Artesia, Calabasas, Grass Valley, Costa Mesa, La Habra, Madera, Banning, Oceanside, Tracy, San Bruno, Porterville, Ojai, Ventura, Marysville and Vacaville endorsed opening up cannabis retailers and other businesses in their cities. San Joaquin County’s Measure X, enacting a general cannabis business tax, is carrying with 66.1% of the vote, and the city of Lemon Grove voted by 72.5% to expand from medical-only cannabis businesses to recreational ones.

“It’s great to see California voters continuing to see the benefits of legal cannabis businesses in their cities and counties,” said Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of California NORML. “Legal businesses bring in sales taxes, payroll taxes, jobs, and economic stimulus while reducing crime and providing safe, tested products to consumers.”

One of the losers at the ballot box is Mount Shasta’s Measure L, sponsored by the Keep Cannabis Away from Kids Coalition, which sought to cap the number of cannabis licensees and make license renewals more difficult. The measure is losing with 40% of the vote. 

In Pomona, voters decided between Measure PM, a citizen-backed initiative that would enact 600-foot setbacks (the same as liquor setbacks) for cannabis businesses, and Measure PO, which was placed on the ballot by city council and has 1000-foot setbacks. The more restrictive Measure PO is winning with 58.6% of the vote so far, while Measure PM has 49.95% of the vote.  In the city of Commerce, voters weighed in on six MJ company-development agreements struck between city officials and businesses. That measure is losing with 47% of the vote.

Voters in the city of Sonoma overwhelmingly approved Measure X, with 79% of the vote, to establish business taxes on several cannabis business types. Measure Y, a broader measure backed by advocates that would open up personal cannabis cultivation and business licensing in the city, is losing with 43% of the vote.

The only cities to broadly reject legal, taxed cannabis businesses were Yountville, where Measure T is losing with only 33% of the vote; Solana Beach where Measure S has earned only 37% of the vote; and Jurupa Valley where Measure U has only 48% of the vote.

In Benecia, Measure D is barely passing with 51% of the vote. The advisory measure seeks the voters’ voice in softening the buffer zones around cannabis businesses. Benecia mayorial candidate Steve Young, who is pro-cannabis, is also winning with 51%.

There have been over 200 ballot measures addressing cannabis in local elections in the past decade; around 90% of them have passed. Cal NORML has published a Local Action Toolkit to assist locals in advancing cannabis business licensing and marijuana consumers’ rights in the 58 counties and 482 cities across the state. Cal NORML / NORML’s “Smoke the Vote” Guide informed supporters of cannabis-friendly measures and candidates in their their federal, state and local districts.

Mail-in and provisional ballots are still being counted. This page will be updated as results are confirmed. 

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