California has 58 counties and 482 incorporated cities across the state, each with the option to create its own rules or ban marijuana altogether. In this California Cannabis Countdown series, we cover who is banning cannabis, who is embracing cannabis (and how), and everyone in between. For each city and county, we’ll discuss its location, history with cannabis, current law, and proposed law to give you a clearer picture of where to locate your California cannabis business, how to keep it legal, and what you will and won’t be allowed to do.
Our last California Cannabis Countdown post was on the City of Antioch, and before that the City of San Jose, the City of Cotati, the City of San Luis Obispo, the City of Redding, the City of San Rafael, the City of Hayward, Alameda County, Oakland, San Francisco, Sonoma County, the City of Davis, the City of Santa Rosa, County and City of San Bernardino, Marin County, Nevada County, the City of Lynwood, the City of Coachella, Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles, the City of Desert Hot Springs, Sonoma County, the City of Sacramento, the City of Berkeley, Calaveras County, Monterey County and the City of Emeryville.
Today’s post is on the County of Contra Costa. Welcome to the California Cannabis Countdown.
Location. Home to Mt. Diablo, Contra Costa County occupies the northern portion of the East Bay with its county seat in Martinez. The County has two cannabis friendly cities within its border: Richmond and El Cerrito. During the hot days of summer, you can make your way to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Concord.
History with Cannabis: Contra Costa County did not embrace cannabis businesses like many of its other Bay Area neighbors (San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Santa Rosa to name just a few). In 2008, the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance prohibiting the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries. On October 24, 2017, the County passed an ordinance prohibiting commercial cannabis activities and regulating personal cultivation. However, because nearly sixty-one percent (61%) of the County’s residents voted in favor of the Adult-Use of Marijuana Act (a /k/a Prop 64), an outright prohibition was not feasible in the long-term. Regular readers of this series can guess what happened next: The County held a number of hearings, with input from a number of local departments, to study the issue. It’s been a slow haul but the County’s been moving in the right direction – incremental progress is better than no progress.
Recent Cannabis Laws: On June 26, 2018, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on a cannabis ordinance regulating commercial cannabis activities in the County. The ordinance passed and Contra Costa County joined the enlightenment era — Welcome! The ordinance will not take effect for thirty (30) days. It will take some time before the County is issuing cannabis licenses to businesses but it is always good news when a new jurisdiction revokes its prohibition. The new ordinance does the following:
- Authorizes up to four (4) storefront retailer permits. Storefront retailers are authorized to make deliveries;
- Authorizes up to ten (10) cultivation permits (outdoor, mixed-light, and indoor are allowed). However, if a licensee holds both a retailer and cultivation permit, that cultivation permit will not count against the cap;
- Authorizes up to two (2) manufacturing permits (non-volatile only) in an agricultural zoning district. However, manufacturing permits in non-agricultural districts and those integrated with a cultivation permit in an agricultural district will not count against the cap;
- Authorizes distribution. The ordinance does not address whether there will be a cap on distribution permits;
- Authorizes testing facilities. The ordinance is also silent on a cap for testing facilities;
- Delivery retailers licensed outside the County are permitted to make deliveries within it so long as they obtain a County business license;
- The County will develop procedures and scoring criteria for prospective cannabis businesses;
- Requires a cannabis business to obtain a health permit from the County; and
- Cannabis permits will have an initial term of five years;
Proposed Cannabis Laws: The Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing today on a proposed tax schedule for cannabis businesses (Come on, you knew taxes were on the way). If the Board approves the tax measure it will be placed on this November’s ball and require the approval of a majority of voters in the County to take effect. The proposed taxation schedule is as follows:
- Indoor cultivation: $7 a square foot up to $10 a square foot;
- Greenhouse cultivation: $4 a square foot up to $7 a square foot;
- Outdoor cultivation: $2 a square foot up to $4 a square foot;
- Nurseries: $1 a square foot up to $2 a square foot;
- Manufacturing: 2.5% of gross receipts up to 4% of gross receipts;
- Distribution: 2% of gross receipts up to 3% of gross receipts; and
- Retailer: 4% of gross receipts up to 6% of gross receipts.
For its foray into regulating cannabis activities, this is a big step for the County and we applaud the fact that it will authorize seed-to-sale license types. Would we like to see the removal of permit caps? Sure, but with local jurisdiction prohibitions still being one of biggest impediments to the cannabis industry in California, we will gladly welcome Contra County into the fold.