It’s no secret that California cannabis is suffering for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the stranglehold on access caused by local control. Local control is never going away in cannabis. It’s one of the linchpins that gets voters to approve cannabis ballot measures (NIMBYs in particular love local control even though they may disagree with the War on Drugs).

Still, this past week, local control got a little bit weaker in California when it comes to medical cannabis delivery with the passage of Senate Bill 1186. While this is a win for medical cannabis patients and medical cannabis retailers that deliver, it doesn’t do anything to help the struggling adult use market– which is really the lifeblood of California’s democratic cannabis experiment. In any event, California is expanding medical cannabis delivery, and that’s a very good thing.

Senate Bill 1186

Senate Bill 1186, alongside other technical fixes to the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, creates the Medicinal Cannabis Patients’ Right of Access Act (“Act”). Its main function is that, as of January 1, 2024, no local jurisdiction can

adopt or enforce any regulation that prohibits the retail sale by delivery within the local jurisdiction of medicinal cannabis to medicinal cannabis patients or their primary caregivers, or that otherwise has the effect of prohibiting the retail sale by delivery within the local jurisdiction of medicinal cannabis to medicinal cannabis patients or their primary caregivers by licensed medicinal cannabis businesses in a timely and readily accessible manner, and in types and quantities that are sufficient to meet demand from medicinal cannabis patients within the local jurisdiction . . .

De facto bans

The Act also intelligently prohibits local government’s use of de facto bans on medical cannabis delivery via severe restrictions on:

  1. The number of medicinal cannabis businesses authorized to deliver medicinal cannabis in the local jurisdiction.
  2. The operating hours of medicinal cannabis businesses.
  3. The number or frequency of sales by delivery of medicinal cannabis.
  4. The types or quantities of medicinal cannabis authorized to be sold by delivery.
  5. The establishment of physical premises from which retail sale by delivery of medicinal cannabis within the jurisdiction is conducted by a licensed non-storefront retailer (except that this prohibition doesn’t require the establishment of additional physical premises in a local jurisdiction that allowed medicinal cannabis retail as of January 1, 2022, and in which at least one physical premises engaged in the retail sale of medicinal cannabis, whether storefront or delivery, is already established).

Reasonable regulation

Reasonable regulations via local government police powers are still protected. Meaning, despite not being able to kill of medical cannabis delivery, local governments can still engage in regulations for zoning, local licensing, public health and safety restrictions, and taxes.

Enforcement

The Act empowers the following persons/entities to take civil action to enforce it:

  1. qualified patients and their primary caregivers (as defined under the Compassionate Use Act) that seek to purchase medical cannabis in the local jurisdiction;
  2. the State Attorney General; and
  3. medical cannabis businesses “that seek to offer medical cannabis for sale in the local jurisdiction.” This really means Type 9 or 10 M-licensees only (i.e., brick and mortar retailer that can deliver or non-storefront retailer that only delivers).

I am happy to see medical cannabis delivery and increased access for patients who live in cities and counties that refuse to get on board with cannabis legalization. My hope though is that eventually we see a bill come through for delivery access for adult use cannabis in California.