Who Regulates Medical Marijuana in California?


The cultivation, possession, and use of marijuana is legal in California for both recreational and medical purposes. But to stay on the right side of the law, you will have to comply with criminal and administrative regulations that are enforced by local and state authorities. These regulations may be difficult to understand and to comply with, especially if you operate a marijuana business. Fortunately, a skilled and experienced San Diego medical marijuana lawyer can help you stay on top of these regulations and guide you through your legal issues.

At McElfresh Law, we’ve built our reputation on providing marijuana users and growers with top-notch legal representation in the San Diego area. From consulting marijuana dispensaries on the growing complexities of the industry’s regulations to providing aggressive defense to state and federal drug charges, we can help bring your case to a positive outcome.

To learn more about how we can help, call us today at (858) 756-7107 for a consultation.

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

Several State and Local Government Agencies Regulate Marijuana

Under the Federal Constitution, states have the authority to pass and enforce laws to protect public health and safety. Similarly, the California Constitution allows local governments, such as counties and towns, to pass their own laws – known as ordinances – to protect the well-being and safety of their residents. In some cases, these local laws may limit state law. There are some cities in California, for example, that have banned outdoor marijuana grow operations and dispensaries as nuisances – even though these are legal at the state level.

For this reason, you need to keep both state and local laws in mind if you intend to be a legal marijuana cultivation, manufacture, transport, or resale business. If you fail to comply with all the laws that apply to your activities, you may expect to contend with the following government agencies:

  • State Prosecutor’s office – If a law enforcement agency has evidence that you violated state criminal law – by selling marijuana without a valid license, for example – you may face prosecution in a state court for drug trafficking or related drug offenses. An experienced San Diego drug defense lawyer can help you in this situation.
  • Local prosecutor’s office – City and county courts generally prosecute misdemeanor offenses under state law and violations of local ordinances. So if your dispensary or grow operation does not comply with your local law, you may have to go to your local court to defend yourself against a nuisance ordinance violation.
  • Local zoning board – Zoning boards determine what areas of a city or town are off-limits to dispensaries. They also conduct public hearings that you and your attorney can attend to advocate for a desirable outcome. For example, the local zoning board may seek to pass an ordinance excluding dispensaries from the main street area. You and other activists can give the zoning board arguments as to why this is a bad idea.
  • City councils or municipal governments – Your local government has the authority to ban outdoor marijuana cultivation or the operation of marijuana businesses within the city or municipality’s territory. Like with the zoning board, you can attend these local governments’ meetings to advocate for your and other marijuana businesses’ interests.
  • Bureau of Marijuana Control – Originally established as the Bureau for Medical Cannabis Regulation under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), this agency will be known as the Bureau of Marijuana Control now that recreational marijuana is legal. This agency will regulate and issue licenses for cannabis transportation, distribution, laboratory testing, and dispensaries. As of now, they are not yet issuing licenses.
  • California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) – This agency is in charge of cannabis cultivation licensing and developing a Track and Trace System, also known as the CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing program (previously called the Medical Cannabis Cultivation Program and Marijuana Cultivation Program, or MCCP). They are still developing their regulations and the license issuing process.
  • Office of Manufactured Cannabis Safety (OMCS) – As part of the Center for Environmental Health of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), this office is developing standards and regulations for manufactured cannabis products and procedures for the issuance of Type 6 and 7 licenses for manufacturers of cannabis. You can apply for licenses as of January 1, 2018.

Bear in mind that the cultivation, transport, sale, use, and possession of marijuana is completely illegal at the federal level. Under the previous Attorney General, Eric Holder, the prosecution of marijuana cases was a low priority for the federal government. But the current Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is known as a staunch opponent of marijuana. His policies are currently unclear, but it is possible that Californians will face a greater risk of federal prosecution for their marijuana use or businesses in the future.

Helping You Understand California’s Marijuana Laws

This is a transitional time for marijuana in California. The passage of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) in 2015 and Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized recreational marijuana, means that the authorities are now scrambling to put together a coherent legal framework for the cultivation, transport, and sale of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. In coming months, the regulations surrounding recreational and medical marijuana, and the agencies enforcing them, will become much clearer.

At McElfresh Law, attorney Jessica McElfresh is closely following each and every development regarding California’s marijuana regulations to better serve her clients in San Diego and beyond. This is the time for current marijuana businesses to review their activities and for prospective businesses to put together a solid plan for the future. Call us today at (858) 756-7107 for a consultation regarding your situation.

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.