Under California’s Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA)–the state’s general cannabis law–cities and counties are given wide latitude as to whether to allow commercial cannabis activities within their borders. Many local jurisdictions have chosen to prohibit cannabis activities altogether, or to severely restrict what types of activities will be allowed and/or how many businesses can operate.
To date, virtually all of the cities in Orange County have been on that list. As it stands, Santa Ana is the only city in the entire county that has storefront retailers (Stanton’s license process started late last year), but the number of retailers there is limited and licensing has been closed for a while. Other cities within the county currently allow non-storefront retail (e.g., Costa Mesa which allows very limited non-retail activities). But overall, consumers who want legal cannabis in Orange County need to either leave the county or commute to Santa Ana.
That all may change relatively soon, as a number of cities in Orange County are in the process of setting up retail storefront licensing or at least seriously considering it. Much of this started in the November elections, when voters in Costa Mesa, Laguna Woods, and La Habra approved retail cannabis measures. Also in 2020, Fullerton and Stanton approved retail measures (Statnton’s licensing process happened in 2020). Let’s take a deeper look at some of these efforts and where they stand:
- Costa Mesa: The city is in the process of adopting an ordinance, but it’s not done yet and may need more working out and hearings are set for later this month. We may have more insight on Costa Mesa in the coming weeks and months.
- Fullerton: It appears that on March 2, 2021, the city council adopted an ordinance repealing an earlier ordinance that would have allowed for cannabis businesses in the city. So it looks like Fullerton may not be moving forward for the time being.
- La Habra: La Habra will allow up to 4 retail licenses with the application process likely kicking off in a few months. This means that this will be a seriously competitive licensing process and businesses that are interested are probably already starting to look at local law and real estate.
It’s also worth noting that this shift towards cannabis retail is not uniform throughout the county. For example, in 2020, Anaheim’s city council narrowly rejected efforts to allow cannabis retail. That said, we fully expect that other cities in the county will continue to open up for licensing, and that even cities like Anaheim will eventually reconsider after they realize the tax revenues they are missing. Stay tuned to the Canna Law Blog for more Orange County cannabis updates.