Recreational marijuana has been legal in California since 2016 – but Riverside is only just now on the cusp of allowing cannabis businesses for the first time ever.
As our Riverside cannabis lawyers can explain, city council voted 5-2 to green light 14 marijuana shop permits. The city has first passed a moratorium on cannabis companies in 2017 – with the exception of marijuana testing labs. This was despite the fact that Riverside voters supported Proposition 64 (which legalized recreational cannabis) by a 53 percent majority. A year later, the council agreed on an outright prohibition of commercial cannabis operations – except for labs.
Then two years ago, the city caught wind of a citizen-led effort to undercut the municipal ban on marijuana sales. Signatures to move the petition forward were never formally submitted, but the city did start weighing whether it should initiate its own permit program and regulatory framework. (Likely, they wanted to sidestep the reality that it was probably going be done whether they wanted it or not, and best to have some control over the final outcome.)
The city is actively studying how best to support permit seekers who have been disproportionately impacted by anti-cannabis legislation in the past. The initial outlay caps cannabis retailers at 14, but there’s no such limit for the number of labs, manufacturing companies, or distribution firms. Voters will need to consider whether they’re willing to accept taxation for the measure. A vote is expected in November 2024.
One councilmember against the initiative said he doesn’t believe marijuana sales in the city are an inevitability, worried over police and other public services burdening more duties, and lamented the fact that a gateway drug was going to be so easily accessible – particularly for young people. Just recently, the sheriff’s office arrested several older adult teens in Riverside for selling vape pens with concentrated cannabis to minors using a mobile delivery service.
But those who support legal cannabis say that a well-regulated market has proven to offset many of these concerns.
It should be noted that this determination about Riverside City is separate from the rules of Riverside County. (Municipalities may have more stringent requirements than counties, and counties may have more stringent requirements than the state – provided they aren’t infringing on people’s rights.)
In Riverside County, cultivation of cannabis is legal if grown for personal use – indoors and within a single, private residence, obstructed from public view and for non-commercial use by someone over 21 for non-commercial use. Where it’s grown outside of a building, the building must be secured by an opaque fence that’s a minimum 6-feet-high. Commercial cannabis activities are allowed so long as the company has a permit from the county’s planning department (which does incur fees). Storefront retailers may be open to the public, provided they operate within authorized zones. Commercial growing operations can’t have plants that are visible from outside the facility. Cannabis delivery is also legal in Riverside County, so long as it’s done in accordance with California Business and Professions Code – but is not permitted in unincorporated areas of Riverside County.
The legalization of medicinal and recreational cannabis has been an economic boon to Riverside County, resulting in total taxable sales exceeding $100 million in 2019 and $265 million in 2020, according to CaliforniaCannabis.org.
If you are considering seeking a permit to operate a cannabis business in Riverside, our longtime marijuana lawyers can help.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Cannabis businesses in Riverside are on the way, March 1, 2023 by Sarah Hofman, The Press-Enterprise
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