What are California Cultivation Laws

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California cultivation laws have undergone many changes since 1996, when California was the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana. California cultivation laws in 2019 include regulations that make it legal for eligible individuals to cultivate cannabis plants for personal use as well as medical use, and for eligible businesses to cultivate cannabis plants for commercial production. California statutes include different laws for personal and commercial cultivation, including specifics such as the legal age for growers, allowable size of growing areas and the types of areas that are allowed for cultivation.

Different Types of Cannabis

The common ground between marijuana and hemp is that they’re both cannabis plants that share the same botanical name, Cannabis sativa. The difference is that they’re simply two varieties of cannabis. Because both hemp and marijuana are members of the same plant family, they share botanical similarities, but because they’re two distinct plants within the same species, they also have distinct differences.

The two plants look so similar that the untrained eye may not be able to discern the difference. Beyond their physical similarities, however, they have different phytochemical attributes. Phytochemicals are the unique chemical compounds that different types of plants naturally produce. And it’s the primary chemical compounds produced by these two varieties of cannabis plants, called phytocannabinoids, which determine the legality of growing each of them.

Hemp plants chiefly produce cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, and marijuana plants mainly produce Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. Although both plants produce both of these chemicals, marijuana plants produce a much higher level of THC, which is classified as a psychoactive substance. Because the CBD produced by hemp plants is not classified as a psychoactive substance, hemp cultivation is not under the same legal mandates as marijuana cultivation.

California Personal vs. Commercial Cultivation

Cannabis cultivation is legal in California for personal use, also called recreational use, as well as medical use. The laws specific to personal-use and medical-use cultivation are different from the laws that apply to commercial cultivation, which authorize only state-licensed commercial growers and manufacturers to sell marijuana. Individuals who cultivate plants for personal and medical use are not allowed to sell the marijuana they grow.

Cultivation, as defined by California Business and Professions Code Section 26001, includes planting, growing, harvesting, drying and curing cannabis plants.

California Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation

In 1996, the passage of Proposition 215 resulted in the Compassionate Use Law (California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5), which legalized the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal use. This law made it possible for many patients with critical medical conditions, including cancer, AIDS and glaucoma, to receive physician-approved marijuana treatment. At a physician’s recommendation, even patients who are 18 years of age or younger may use medical marijuana with a parent’s consent.

Medicinal cannabis cultivation specifics allow patients and their primary caregivers to grow marijuana for physician-recommended medical treatment. A primary caregiver, as defined in Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5 is someone designated by the patient who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health or safety of that person.

Read More: California Marijuana Cultivation and Manufacturing Laws: Overview

California Commercial Cannabis Cultivation

Regulations for commercial cannabis cultivation are delineated in California Business and Professional Code Sections 26000 through 26250. These guidelines mandate all facets of the commercial cannabis industry, including selling, cultivating, possessing, manufacturing, distributing, processing, storing, laboratory testing, packaging, labeling, transporting and delivering cannabis and cannabis products. Delivery of cannabis includes making commercial transfers to customers, as well as fulfilling technology platform deliveries.

All commercial manufacturers must be licensed by a state-credentialed and state-authorized agency. These state agencies have the power to issue, renew and reinstate licenses for eligible licensees, and they can also take disciplinary action against offenders.

California Commercial Cannabis Licensing Law

Prior to the adoption of the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s final licensing regulations for the commercial cannabis industry with the passage of the California cultivation laws of 2019, California had been issuing temporary licenses and extensions. But with the passage of the final legislation, all temporary licenses and license extensions issued under the California cultivation laws of 2018 were only valid, without renewal, through December 31, 2018.

The California cultivation laws of 2019 mandate three types of commercial licenses for growers and manufacturers. With an A-license, the licensee can cultivate, manufacture and sell cannabis and cannabis products to adults who are 21 years of age or older. With an M-license, the licensee can cultivate, manufacture and sell medicinal cannabis and cannabis products.

With a testing laboratory license, the licensee can offer or perform tests on cannabis and cannabis products for commercial activity. A testing laboratory must be licensed and accredited by a third-party independent agency outside the commercial cannabis industry. Testing laboratories include laboratories, facilities or other state agencies.

Personal-Use Cannabis Cultivation

Individuals who cultivate marijuana plants must be at least 21 years old, and the personal-use cultivation limit is six plants. This six-plant maximum is for each individual private residence, regardless of how many people live at the residence. For example, spouses who live at the same address can only grow a collective number of six plants, not six plants each.

Unless local laws mandate otherwise, individual growers must cultivate plants indoors or in an outdoor location, including an accessory structure to their private residence, in a secured area that is not visible from public view.

Medicinal-Use Cannabis Cultivation Details

California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.77 allows eligible patients and their primary caregivers to cultivate 12 immature plants in addition to the six allowable mature plants for individual growers. Patients whose medical needs exceed this number of plants may possess and cultivate as many plants as required to meet these needs, at the recommendation of their physician.

Additionally, each patient and his eligible caregiver may possess up to 8 ounces of dried cannabis, consisting of the dried mature flowers of female plants. It’s these flowers that contain the highest levels of THC.

Differences in Local Cultivation Ordinances

Because marijuana cultivation in California is mandated not only by state laws but also by local ordinances, which vary among counties and municipalities, individual growers must comply with all laws in the jurisdiction where they live. In Sonoma County, for example, individual-use growers have the same state-mandated six-plant maximum. But this county doesn’t place restrictions on the number of plants allowed for cultivation by an individual medicinal-use grower. Sonoma County does, however, restrict the size of the growing area for medicinal-use cannabis not to exceed 100 square feet.

Sonoma County also defines the allowable growing locations for cannabis plants. Growers must site their plants in an area that’s not visible from streets and public walkways, and they cannot grow plants in front or side yard setback areas. If growers cultivate their plants indoors, cultivation generally must be in a greenhouse or garage and not inside their home, although exceptions may be allowed if there is not a workable alternative. Cannabis cultivation is prohibited in multifamily homes or within medium- and high-density R2 and R3 residential zones.

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About the Author

Victoria Lee Blackstone was formerly with Freddie Mac’s mortgage acquisition department, where she funded multi-million-dollar loan pools for primary lending institutions, worked on a mortgage fraud task force and wrote the convertible ARM section of the company’s policies and procedures manual. Currently, Blackstone is a professional writer with expertise in the fields of mortgage, finance, budgeting, tax and law. She is the author of more than 2,000 published works for newspapers, magazines, online publications and individual clients.