There are many medical grade cannabis (medical marijuana) dispensaries, coops, collectives, and delivery services are currently doing business in California. Although many are operating in legal accordance with state and local law, the sale of medical cannabis remains strictly illegal under federal law, and the DEA has conducted scores of raids against medical cannabis businesses.
Under state law, the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215) patients and their “primary caregivers” are protected from criminal prosecution under state law for personal possession and cultivation of marijuana, but NOT for distribution or sale to others. State law was expanded in 2004 by a new law, Senate Bill 420 (Health & Safety Code 11362.7-8). Among other things, SB 420 authorized patient “cooperatives” or “collectives” to grow, distribute and/or sell medical marijuana on a non-profit basis to their members. It also allows duly designated primary caregivers who consistently attend to patients’ needs to charge for their labor and services in providing marijuana.
On September 30, 2010, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed Bill AB 2650 (Buchanan), which prohibits medical marijuana collectives from operating within 600 feet of a school as of Jan 1, 2011. It covers all activities by dispensaries or other providers that have a storefront location or mobile outlet and are required to have a business license. The bill grandfathers dispensaries that are currently allowed to operate there under existing local regulations.
Despite the federal illegality of dispensaries, many cities and counties have enacted ordinances aimed at licensing or regulating them. Many others have banned them altogether. Some cities, such as Los Angeles, have enacted moratoriums banning new dispensaries while allowing existing ones to operate. Others, such as Oakland, have put a cap on the number of licensed dispensaries. Strict zoning regulations are in effect in many localities, preventing siting near schools or too close to other dispensaries. Other regulations that have been adopted include banning on-site consumption and limiting the quantity of marijuana that can be sold or kept on hand. In some cases, regulations have been deliberately devised to be so strict as to preclude dispensaries from operating.
A new state law, AB 2650, (Buchanan) prohibits medical marijuana collectives from operating within 600 feet of a school as of Jan 1, 2011. It covers all activities by dispensaries or other providers that have a storefront location or mobile outlet and are required to have a business license. The bill grandfathers dispensaries that are currently allowed to operate there under existing local regulations. Local Los Angeles Ordinance may be found in this document.
Anyone interested in opening a medical cannabis facility should be wary about alarming local authorities. Many towns have moved to ban dispensaries after receiving inquiries from prospective operators. However, anyone planning to open a storefront dispensary should seek a business license and comply with local zoning regulations. It is especially important that dispensaries be appropriately sited so as not to disturb neighbors. Neighborhood complaints are the number one cause of police raids.