Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in California


The law surrounding medical marijuana in California can be complicated and confusing for patients and their caregivers — particularly with regard to growing collectives and medical marijuana dispensaries. If you have questions regarding medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives, contact an experienced medical marijuana attorney to learn more. Call Jessica McElfresh today at (858) 756-7107 for more information.

Free consultation for criminal defense cases only. Cannabis business consultation requires a fee.

California Has Adopted a New Medical Marijuana System

In 2015, the California State legislature passed three bills (Assembly Bills 243 and 266, and Senate Bill 643) that create a licensing and regulatory framework for medical marijuana. The goal of these regulations was to clarify the gray market created by the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 – the first time medical marijuana was legalized in the United States. Together known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, the new regulations took effect on January 1, 2016.

Later that year, Senate Bill 837 was passed. It created extra regulations and penalties for medical marijuana licensees who fail to follow the letter of the law. This new law also renamed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act and the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation to the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) and the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (BCMR).

Under this new legal framework, the licensing and regulation of the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, transportation, lab testing, and sale of medical cannabis is divided among several agencies:

  • Department of Food and Agriculture – Cultivation licenses and regulations
  • Department of Public Health – Manufacturing licenses and regulations (for edibles, oils, and other derivative cannabis products)
  • Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (part of the Department of Consumer Affairs) – Distribution, transportation, laboratory testing, and dispensary licenses and regulations

State Level Dispensary Licenses Are Now Being Issues

Since January 1, 2018, state level dispensaries are now issuing licenses.

As of now, we know the following about obtaining a state dispensary license:

  • Dispensary operators must obtain either a type 10 or type 10a (for up to 3 retail sites) license
  • The license must be renewed annually
  • There will be a fee, the amount of which remains to be determined
  • You must submit fingerprints and federal Department of Justice background check with your application
  • The BMCR may take into account your criminal history when determining your license eligibility (a felony drug offense makes you ineligible)
  • To obtain a state license, you must present proof of compliance with local laws, your legal occupation of your premises, and your possession of a local dispensary license

What You Need to Know if You Want to Open a Dispensary in San Diego

The BMCR recommends that people seeking to open a dispensary for the sale of either medical or recreational marijuana should look first to their local governments. Indeed, both Proposition 64 and the MCRSA give counties and cities the ability to decide whether they will issue permits for dispensaries within their jurisdiction. If your jurisdiction is issuing licenses for dispensaries, you can obtain one while waiting for the state-level regulations to go into effect.

In San Diego, it took around 20 years for the first medical marijuana dispensary to open. Only 36 dispensaries – or collectives as they are called under San Diego County law – will be allowed to operate within the territory. Unfortunately, growing fears about the affect of marijuana on local communities prompted the county government to issue a ban on the establishment of any more medical marijuana collectives or other facilities within its unincorporated territories. Those that are already open have been given five years to close their doors.

Fortunately, incorporated towns and cities within San Diego County may continue to permit and regulate marijuana businesses. San Diego City has yet to develop a new permitting process and zoning plan for recreational cannabis businesses, and the process for medical marijuana dispensaries has all but stalled. La Mesa, however, approved measure U in November of 2016, which put in place a process for new cannabis businesses to obtain permits. Lemon Grove is the only other municipality in the area that has been accepting applications for dispensaries.

How a San Diego Medical Marijuana Lawyer Can Help

If you’re interested in starting a medical marijuana collective, you face a lengthy bureaucratic process in San Diego. A medical marijuana lawyer with experience guiding patients and caregivers through the process of filing necessary business paperwork and permit applications can help make sure you’re in compliance with all of the rules so that the process goes more smoothly. Your attorney can discuss with you the zoning requirements for a medical marijuana cooperative, and help to determine whether your proposed site meets any criteria set forth under your local zoning laws.

Jessica McElfresh is an experienced San Diego medical marijuana lawyer who has represented medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives in the area, and she can make sure that your rights under California and San Diego laws are protected through the process of starting your collective. She can also represent you at public hearings and public meetings to ensure your voice is heard.

Call (858) 756-7107 today to learn how to get started.

This website is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. Free consultation for criminal defense cases only. Cannabis business consultation requires a fee.