Summary of Laws


Summary of California and Humboldt Cannabis Laws


1/26/2016 –  The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors passed the Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance (CMMLUO) and environmental mitigation measures required under state law.

Regulations were anticipated to be in place for the upcoming cultivation season although it may be difficult for cannabis cultivators to be permitted in time.

The ordinance passed quickly to be in place before the March 1 deadline that is currently being removed by State Assembly member Jim Wood AB 21. AB 21 passed quickly in the Senate and is going to the Assembly. If the Assembly passes the AB 21 then it will go to the supportive Governor Jerry Brown. See full CMMLUO.

12/2015 – Humboldt County ordinance amends Title III of the Humboldt County Code relating to the commercial cultivation of cannabis for medical use. Registration of existing commercial cannabis activities established prior to January 1, 2016 using this form will also permit the County of Humboldt to make a determination that the registrant was in operation and in good standing with the County of Humboldt by January 1, 2016, for purposes of Business and Professions Code section 19321 (c) eligibility for priority processing of state license applications required by MMRSA.

10/09/2015 – Governor Brown has signed the bills! The new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA)  consists of three separate bills which were enacted together on Sept 11, 2015 (despite its title, the term “medical cannabis” is used throughout the act). The bill creates a comprehensive state licensing system for the commercial cultivation, manufacture, retail sale, transport, distribution, delivery, and testing of medical cannabis. All licenses must also be approved by local governments.

05/15/2015 – Facing both a Cal NORML-supported lawsuit and a voter referendum, Clearlake city council voted 5-0 to repeal their medical marijuana cultivation ban.

05/07/2015 – The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board held a public workshop in Eureka on their draft waste discharge requirements (WDR) for activities associated with the cultivation of marijuana. Read more. The Regional Board is expected to consider the draft order at its Aug. 13 meeting in Santa Rosa.

04/08/2015 – Marijuana pesticide guidelines issued by State of California Water Board moves forward with marijuana regulations; Site plans may be required mid-year for growers 12/17/2014

11/5/2014 – California Cities Vote to Tax Marijuana; Northern CA Cultivation Measures Fail


11/26/2013 – Explanation of SB420 Cultivation Guidelines

On November 26, 2013, the Third District Court of Appeals upheld the city of Live Oak’s ban on medical marijuana cultivation. California NORML supported a court challenge to the Live Oak ruling, but the California Supreme Court refused to hear the challenge.

Cities and counties across the state have moved to establish zoning regulations for medical cannabis cultivation. In many cases, these are driven by complaints from neighbors who don’t like the sight or smell of marijuana, or by public officials with overly punitive attitudes. Public safety concerns have been raised, and there have been a few incidents of violence around marijuana gardens. While there may be a need in some cities to require greenhouses or other security measures for gardens, in rural areas and in whole counties, there is no justification for outlawing outdoor marijuana gardens. In any case, hardship exemptions for indigent patients must be included to assure safe access under state law. Any patient who is impacted by planned or existing local ordinances can write to Cal NORML.

Other local laws for cultivation and aggegate grows for multiple patients may be found in Local California Dispensary Regulations. Several cities and counties, e.g. Benicia, disallow collective grows for more than two or three patients. To find your city or county’s code, Google the name + “code,” then search for “marijuana” or “Cannabis”.

NOTE: On May 22, 2008, the Second District of California Court of Appeals ruled that the state limits on medical marijuana possession and cultivation established under SB 420 are unconstitutional. The court’s reasoning would seem to apply only when the SB 420 numbers are used to limit patients’ rights, but has been interpreted otherwise by police who would prefer to ignore them. On January 21, 2010, the California Supreme Court in essence affirmed the ruling.

SB 420 Enforcement Guidelines:
State law, SB 420 (Health & Safety Code 11362.7), which took effect on Jan. 1, 2004, protects Prop. 215 patients from arrest provided they cultivate no more than 6 mature or 12 immature plants and possess no more than 8 ounces of dried marijuana (H&SC
11362.77(a)).

Counties and cities are authorized to establish higher (but not lower) limits if they wish (H&SC 11362.77(c)). Listed above are those localities that have adopted limits above the state limit.

Patients who need more marijuana can be exempted from these limits if they obtain a physician’s statement specifying that they need more (H&SC
11362.77(b)). While police are often reluctant to recognize such exemptions, they are helpful in court.

Despite supposed protections of SB 420 and Prop 215, patients may still be arrested if law enforcement suspects they are outside the law, for example, by being involved in illegal sales or distribution, or growing plants with excessive yields.

In general, the state Attorney General has given local authorities discretion in how they enforce Prop. 215, as explained in a letter to local law enforcement officials.

California NORML strongly advises Prop 215 patients to continue following the SB 420 guidelines – six mature or 12 immature plants and 8 ounces of processed marijuana except where local guidelines specify more. The Supreme Court’s recent Kelly decision has been widely misinterpreted to imply that the limits no longer apply, and that patients can therefore grow as much as they want. In fact, the Court’s decision lets the police arrest anyone who exceeds the guidelines, The only thing it disallows is for the guidelines to be used as a basis for conviction in criminal trials.

So, unless you don’t mind being arrested and dragged into court for a felony trial, where you will have to show that the amount of marijuana you had was consistent with your medical needs, the best rule of thumb is to follow the guidelines. The Kelly decision simply re-affirms the original intent of SB 420, which was to establish reasonable guidelines for arrest – not automatic limits for guilt.

Some doctors are charging clients extra for so-called “cultivation licenses” supposedly entitling them to grow more than the normal number of plants. There is no such thing as a “cultivation license” under California law. Any patient with a California physician’s recommendation may legally cultivate or possess as much marijuana as they need for their own personal medical use, and no more. No physician can authorize them to cultivate more (they can only testify in court that a certain amount of marijuana is consistent with the individual patient’s needs, and they do not have professional competence to prescribe plant numbers).


Humboldt County Cannabis Laws:

1/26/2016 –  The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors passed the Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance (CMMLUO) and environmental mitigation measures required under state law.

Regulations were anticipated to be in place for the upcoming cultivation season although it may be difficult for cannabis cultivators to be permitted in time.

The ordinance passed quickly to be in place before the March 1 deadline that is currently being removed by State Assembly member Jim Wood AB 21. AB 21 passed quickly in the Senate and is going to the Assembly. If the Assembly passes the AB 21 then it will go to the supportive Governor Jerry Brown. See full CMMLUO.

12/2015 – Humboldt County ordinance amends Title III of the Humboldt County Code relating to the commercial cultivation of cannabis for medical use. Registration of existing commercial cannabis activities established prior to January 1, 2016 using this form will also permit the County of Humboldt to make a determination that the registrant was in operation and in good standing with the County of Humboldt by January 1, 2016, for purposes of Business and Professions Code section 19321 (c) eligibility for priority processing of state license applications required by MMRSA.
10/2014 – Humboldt County Board of Supervisors passed an nuisance ordinance for parcels under 5 acres. The land use ordinance limits qualified growers with Proposition 215 recommendations to 100 square feet of cannabis canopy on land parcels an acre in size or less and up to 200 square feet of cannabis canopy on property over an acre to 5 acres in size. Read more.

A group called California Cannabis Voice Humboldt is proposing an ordinance for parcels over 5 acres.

12/14/2011 – Humboldt county passed an ordinance limiting indoor gardens to 50 square feet per parcel, and 1200 watts, regardless of the number of patients.

Both indoors and out, patients in Humboldt county residents are currently permitted 3 pounds.

The City of Fortuna enforces SB 420 limits (6 mature/12 immature plants, 1/2 lb) indoors and out.

State Guidelines Under SB 420 (Health & Safety Code 11362.7):
H&SC 11362.77(a). A qualified patient or primary caregiver may possess no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana per qualified patient. In addition, a qualified patient or primary caregiver may also maintain no more than six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants per qualified patient.

H &SC 11362.77 (b) If a qualified patient or primary caregiver has a doctor’s recommendation that this quantity does not meet the qualified patient’s medical needs, the qualified patient or primary caregiver may possess an amount of marijuana consistent with the patient’s needs.

H&SC 11362.77 (c) Counties and cities may retain or enact medical marijuana guidelines allowing qualified patients or primary caregivers to exceed the state limits set forth in subdivision (a).

H&SC 11362.77 (d) Only the dried mature processed flowers of female cannabis plant or the plant conversion shall be considered when determining allowable quantities of marijuana under this section.