Regulations Introduced to Prohibit Commercial Cannabis


The Carlsbad City Council voted Tuesday to introduce an ordinance to change the language in the Carlsbad Municipal Code to expressly prohibit commercial cannabis (marijuana) activities and outdoor cannabis growing. Under the new rules, violations would be considered a misdemeanor criminal offense except where state law limits the penalty to an infraction. The change will be considered for adoption at the Sept. 26 City Council meeting and would go into effect 30 days after that.

At a Glance
Various state laws have decriminalized some cannabis activities in California under certain circumstances.
Cities are allowed under state law to prohibit some activities allowed under state law by adding specific language to their local municipal codes.
Cannabis remains illegal under federal law with narrow exceptions as approved by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Efforts are underway in several cities, including Carlsbad, to change local rules to allow cannabis businesses through the citizens’ initiative process.

The City of Carlsbad already prohibits commercial cannabis activities in two ways.
First, the city only allows commercial activities specifically called out in the zoning code, and commercial cannabis activities such as dispensaries, cultivation, manufacturing and delivery are not included in the list of allowed uses.
Second, the city’s business license regulations do not allow businesses that violate federal law.

According to Deputy City Attorney Heather Stroud, the change in language is recommended due to three recently passed state laws:
The Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, effective Jan. 1, 2016
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, effective Nov. 8, 2016
The Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, effective June 27, 2017

These laws created regulations and licensing requirements for cannabis growing, sales and use. The state laws give cities the authority to prohibit commercial cannabis activities. To preserve local control over this issue and prevent the state from issuing licenses for cannabis businesses to operate in Carlsbad, the City Council voted to change the language in its municipal code to expressly prohibit those activities.

Although cannabis generally refers to the plant or plant type, and marijuana typically refers to the seeds, leaves and flowers of the plant, these two terms are used interchangeably under state law.

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act started as a citizens’ initiative in the state of California and was included on the Nov. 8, 2016, ballot as Proposition 64. It passed with 57 percent of the vote and most of its provisions took effect Nov. 9, 2016. Among Carlsbad voters only, the initiative also passed by 57 percent. This law:
Decriminalizes the nonmedical use of marijuana by persons 21 years of age and over and the personal cultivation of six marijuana plants under state law
Creates state regulatory and licensing system for the commercial cultivation, testing, and distribution of nonmedical marijuana, and the manufacturing of nonmedical marijuana products
Allows local governments to prohibit or regulate and license commercial nonmedical marijuana

City staff originally proposed an ordinance to the City Council April 25 to expressly prohibit commercial cannabis activities and outdoor growing for personal use. The City Council directed staff to research and provide alternatives for allowing cannabis research and development activities that are permitted by the federal government and access to cannabis for medical use for people who are not able to grow cannabis for personal use at their residence.

The draft ordinance and staff report are available for review on the city’s website (starts on page 131 of the agenda packet).

City staff presented two options to the City Council at its Sept. 12 meeting. Option one prohibited commercial cannabis activities with the exception of those allowed under federal law, such as medical research with a federal permit. The second option also allowed delivery of cannabis for medicinal use from a primary caregiver to a qualified patient. The City Council chose the first option, which will be considered for adoption on Sept. 26.

Local Initiative

Initiatives proposing to allow commercial cannabis uses have been submitted to the cities of Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside, Vista, Chula Vista and Santee.

In Carlsbad, the Association of Cannabis Professionals, the group proposing the change in local law, has until Feb. 6, 2018, to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The group needs signatures from 15 percent of registered voters, 10,628, to place the item on the ballot for a special election or 10 percent, 7,086, to qualify for the next regular election on Nov. 6, 2018.

If the local initiative was ultimately approved by Carlsbad voters, its provisions would become law in Carlsbad, overriding some of the changes in the ordinance introduced on Tuesday.

A copy of the initiative is available on the city’s website, in the Office of the City Clerk, 1200 Carlsbad Village Drive, and at city libraries.

For more information
City of Carlsbad, City Clerk’s Office, 1200 Carlsbad Village Drive and Faraday Administration Center, 1635 Faraday Ave.,, 760-434-2808

City of Carlsbad media contact
Kristina Ray, or 760-434-2957


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here