Authored By: Silvia San Nicolas, Esq.

Navigating the Nasty Nuances – Danger! Danger! Will Robinson

The Delivery rules in Cali are guaranteed to spin you silly — As if the California dual licensing regulatory schema isn’t daunting enough with navigating 482 cities and 58 counties all with differing rules on what, when and how or even IF commercial cannabis activity is allowed at all – if you are or plan to ‘deliver’ cannabis, these localities also get to govern the if, when and how’s of whether or not you can deliver to the citizens in their county/city even if you are a permitted by another local jurisdiction.

California emergency rules under MAUCRSA allow for licensed delivery by both retail storefronts and non-storefront delivery only establishments, subject to the rules of the local jurisdiction in which the store or delivery service operates.

However, (and wait for it …. here is where the need for Advil and a double shot comes in) …. unlike all other Cali commercial cannabis license types, retail with delivery and delivery only operations are also subject to the local rules of each city and every county in which they wish to deliver cannabis, not just the jurisdiction that they are permitted in. So, if you are a store wishing to deliver or a delivery service, your inquiry into what is allowed and not allowed does not end with the city you are permitted and physically located in, that’s just where your analysis begins. So grab yourself a big bottle of Advil or Aleve, put on a pot of extra caffeinated coffee and settle in for one hell of a research ride that will never end as each ordinance is drafted differently, isn’t always or hardly ever clear on what it allows or doesn’t and what you know to be true today is changing weekly.

Here’s a taste of what you are in for if you want to deliver cannabis:

  1. Some cities/counties only allow delivery of medicinal cannabis, while others allow delivery of both medicinal and recreational cannabis.
  2. Some cities allow for both but haven’t updated their ordinance yet, or uploaded their ordinance to their web site, so you don’t know unless you call and speak to the right person. By the way, making sure you are speaking to someone who really knows the deal is a task in and or itself. Not unusual to get 3 different answers from the same city/county department.
  3. Some cities/counties ban commercial cannabis activity, but then deep in the ordinance there is a not so obvious exception made for delivery originating outside the city/county with a whole host of qualifiers.
  4. Some cities / counties only allow delivery from operators that have a brick and mortar in their jurisdiction, while others allow outsiders to deliver, again, with a whole host of conditions or qualifiers.
  5. Some cities/counties ban retail cannabis stores, but not sales, while others allow sales, but not delivery. Note if sales are banned, you probably are wise to not deliver there, unless there is a clear exception.
  6. Many cities /counties have specific hours for delivery and they all vary.
  7. Some cities/counties allow delivery but require you to obtain a permit from their jurisdiction.
  8. Some cities/counties use the words ‘transportation’ and ’delivery’ interchangeably in their ordinances, and even combine some state provisions for transportation with provisions pertaining to delivery.
  9. Some cities prohibit it outright but make narrow exceptions for caregivers.
  10. Some cities require a business license, but not a cannabis permit. Everyone wants their cut.

Make sure that each and every jurisdiction that is slotted for delivery is analyzed for the rules of that particular city or county related to delivery. Then analyze them again. Then call the city or county. Then check frequently for updates to each ordinance. Otherwise a delivery jaunt can turn into a big mess of violations, compliance failures and potential criminal charges for the delivering entity. Fun times and best of luck, you will need it my friends.

Is there an end in sight to this madness perhaps? Maybe but not likely. A bill introduced by State Senator Ricardo Lara from Senate District 33 (SB 1302, section 26090(e)) proposes to bring us salvation but not unless it picks up some co-sponsors.

SB 1302 would ensure that a licensed delivery service can provide cannabis anywhere in the state to a qualified patient, primary caregiver, or adult aged twenty-one and over.

That would be a simple and clean solution to an otherwise almost unmanageable task. Given that is not how California does things, my guess is it will die a lonely death like other simple solutions to otherwise complex regulatory California problems.

Keep Calm and Cannabis On. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a little (lot) of extra research?