Pubdate: Mon, 09 Apr 2018
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2018 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: Brooke Edwards Staggs



Recreational marijuana is legal in California, but it probably isn't
legal to buy in your city. Fewer than one in three cities in
California have approved any kind of cannabis industry, and only a
sliver of cities allow recreational pot shops. The Southern California
News Group has tracked the rules for every city and county in
California, to show the patchwork of rules governing a product that
became street legal four months ago. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Fewer than one in three California cities (144 out of 482) allow any
kind of cannabis business to operate in their borders. And just 18 of
the state's 58 counties permit cannabis businesses in their
unincorporated areas.

Also, fewer than one in five California cities welcome medical
marijuana dispensaries, while fewer than one in seven allow
recreational cannabis stores, where anyone 21 and older has been able
to shop for legal weed since Jan. 1.

These are some of the findings in a first-of-its-kind investigation,
tracking and compiling the cannabis ordinances in all 540 city and
county jurisdictions in California, a study conducted by Southern
California News Group and other Digital First newspapers.

The information opens a window into how the industry is taking shape
three months after California began licensing marijuana businesses and
permitting the sale of recreational marijuana.

The study is needed because of a simple rule in California: While 
Proposition 64 (approved by 57 percent of state voters in November 2016) 
makes it legal for people to carry up to an ounce of marijuana
and to grow it at home and consume it for pleasure, the law also gives 
cities and counties a strong say in how that law is implemented within 
their jurisdictions.

That dichotomy has led to a crazy quilt of policies across the state.
Some towns are cannabis friendly, allowing a wide range of businesses
related to a product that residents are free to use at their
discretion. Other cities are less enthusiastic, with some blocking
virtually every type of marijuana-related enterprise and, in some
cases, passing ordinances that seem aimed at regulating personal use
as much as possible.

Last year, to help everyone from pot consumers and would-be pot
entrepreneurs to people who simply are curious about the progress of a
new state law, we began gathering details on local marijuana policies.
In January, we launched a database with some of that information,
offering cannabis rules from about half the cities in the state.
Today, we've upgraded that work, with rules from every city and county
in California.

The information is included in our online database, where readers can
search policies by location or by business type. And, based on an
analysis of that data, we've ranked each community on our 100-point
scale of marijuana friendliness.

The data reveals some interesting trends, conflicts and anomalies. It
also shows that leaders in some communities are far less enthusiastic
(or, in some cases, more enthusiastic) about cannabis than the
residents who voted for or against Prop 64. That's one reason the
database shows city-by-city voting results, too.

Today's story is the first in a three-part series. Next up is a story
about how some city laws seem to paint cannabis as a barely-legal
product, and after that will come a story about how a few cities are
particularly eager to make money off the cannabis industry.

We'll continue exploring and expanding the data so, down the road, we
can offer more insights about the multi-billion-dollar world of legal
cannabis in California.

Many people seem to think it's a free-for-all when it comes to
cannabis in California now that recreational marijuana is legal. But
that's far from the case, as many cities are setting up strict rules
on what types of cannabis businesses -- if any -- can open in their

And even the numbers that seem to indicate where the cannabis industry
is being welcomed can paint an overly enthusiastic picture. A couple
dozen cities on the chart -- places such as Moreno Valley and Davis --
have passed rules to allow marijuana businesses. But that data doesn't
show how those cities have yet to fully develop the regulations, or
issue permits, to let those businesses start.

That's why even though 61 cities and nine counties have ordinances on
the books that allow recreational marijuana stores, as of April 6,
2018, the state Bureau of Cannabis Control had licensed recreational
shops in only 34 cities and five unincorporated county areas of California.

A couple dozen cities are leading the pack for the most points we've
doled out so far, meaning they're the most lenient cities in the state
when it comes to cannabis policy.

Riverside County has by far the highest number of permissive cities,
with six that score above 96 points on our scale. A few other counties
have two 96-point cities each, including Los Angeles and Sonoma.

Four counties are also racking up points when it comes to their
lenient policies for unincorporated areas: Humboldt, Inyo, Del Norte
and Monterey.

To get above 96 points, cities and counties must allow every type of
marijuana business licensed by the state. That means permitting
medical and recreational licenses for cannabis sales, cultivation,
manufacturing, distribution and testing. They would also have to allow
their residents to grow marijuana at home, both indoors and outdoors.

No one yet has a score of 100 is because we reserved a few points in
our scale for cities that go a step further and allow, say, cannabis
lounges or festivals. We'll be incorporating these factors as we
continue to build out the database, with cities such as Palm Springs
and San Francisco -- which permit cannabis lounges -- expected to jump
even higher.

(Note: We don't mean to imply that "high" scores are better or worse 
than "low" scores. If you support cannabis rights, you'll likely see a 
high score as a good thing. If you oppose them, you'll likely see a low
score as preferable. Our scoring system is simply a mathematical way to 
compare city and county policies.)

More than five dozen cities score a zero on our scale of cannabis

These cities are spread over 26 counties. The highest number is
predictably in the county with by far the most cities: Los Angeles.
But just 19 percent of L.A. County cities are super strict on
cannabis, while every city in the tiny counties of Madera and Sutter
have passed the toughest rules possible.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is in Humboldt County, which is famous
for cannabis production. Despite the region's reputation as a cannabis
hotbed, and despite having a couple cities where cannabis ordinances
are lenient, four of the seven cities in Humboldt County earn zero
points on our scale.

To get a zero score, a city has to ban all marijuana businesses, block
residents from growing marijuana for personal use outdoors and require
them to get a permit to grow it inside their homes.

So far, counties have been slightly more likely than cities to welcome
marijuana businesses.

The gap is most pronounced when it comes to shops and cultivation.
More than 15 percent of California counties allow recreational stores
in unincorporated areas, for example, compared with 12 percent of
cities. And 27 percent of counties allow medical marijuana
cultivation, compared with just 20 percent of cities.

In some places, county policies contrast sharply with some of the
rules passed by cities within that county.

Imperial County, for example, permits all types of marijuana
businesses in its unincorporated areas, mostly near the Arizona and
Mexico borders. Yet most cities in Imperial County (the three biggest
are El Centro, Calexico and Brawley) have banned the industry, and
none allow recreational shops.

There are also state-licensed marijuana stores that claim addresses in
Carmel and Monterey, even though both of those cities block all
marijuana businesses.

The shops are technically in unincorporated Monterey County, which
allows all types of marijuana businesses. Same goes for a recreational
shop "in Crescent City" that's actually in unincorporated Del Norte
County, and another with an address "in Fort Bragg" though it's
officially in unincorporated Mendocino County.

In some cities and counties, cannabis industry rules contrast sharply
with how residents there voted on Prop. 64.

In the top left corner of the chart you'll find cities and counties
where local leaders have passed liberal marijuana policies even though
most of their constituents voted against Prop. 64.

Imperial County again stands out. Only 45 percent of unincorporated
county residents there voted in favor of legalizing recreational
marijuana. But the Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted in
November to welcome every type of cannabis business, giving the area a
score of 95.9 on our scale of permissiveness.

Oakdale and Riverbank, in Stanislaus County, are the only two cities
in the state that welcome every type of recreational marijuana
business even though a majority of residents in both cities voted
against Prop. 64.

The opposite can be seen in the bottom right corner of the chart,
which shows cities and counties where local leaders are sticking with
strict cannabis policies even though more than two thirds of the
voters in their communities were in favor of Prop. 64.

In Sausalito, in Marin County, 77 percent of voters supported legal
weed, but city council members there have blocked all businesses and
outdoor home gardens. The numbers are similar in the Bay Area city of

In other places, local policies are very much in line with voter

West Hollywood and Berkeley voters, for example, tied with a high of
83 percent of residents approving Prop. 64. Both cities also have
liberal cannabis policies, just missing the leader board for most
permissive cities in the state because they block commercial
cultivation and other behind-the-scenes businesses.

Kingsburg, in Fresno County, also has policies that align with
election numbers. Residents of the farming town opposed Prop. 64 more
than anywhere else in California, with only 35 percent favoring
marijuana legalization. And city council members have taken a similar
stance, with policies that earn Kingsburg 0.5 out of 100 points on our
scale of marijuana friendliness.
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MAP posted-by: Matt