California Senate Bill Would Allow Cannabis Delivery to ‘Dry Towns’

(4kodiak/iStock)

A California state Senate committee has advanced legislation intended to permit legal cannabis delivery into vast “cannabis deserts,” where local and cities and counties have banned marijuana businesses from operating.

Senate Bill 1302 seeks to allow cannabis delivery to private residences—even to those in communities with strict bans on cannabis businesses.

Despite those bans, Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from the Los Angeles County community of Bell Gardens, is arguing that California communities cannot keep licensed cannabis delivery drivers from neighboring jurisdictions off local roads.

On Wednesday, Lara’s legislation, Senate Bill 1302, was passed out of the Senate Government and Finance Committee. It seeks to allow cannabis delivery to private residences for adult use and medical cannabis consumers – even to those in communities with strict bans on cannabis businesses.

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Testifying to the committee, Lara said his legislation respects local governments’ right to decide whether to regulate cannabis businesses locally and grant licenses or ban them. However, he argued, cities and counties cannot restrict cannabis couriers from access to public roads and driving into their communities “to ensure that patients and consumers can have cannabis products safely delivered to their place of residence.”

Consumers in 75% of California communities have no local access to cannabis because of city or county bans.

Lara says his legislation is needed because consumers in 75% of California communities have no local access to cannabis because of city or county bans.

“The premise of this measure is to ensure that the will of the voters to create a safe access to medical and recreation cannabis is preserved and, in some cases, returned,” Lara said at Wednesday’s hearing. “This measure is not intended to interfere with a local government decision to abstain from or ban licensing, taxing or regulating cannabis businesses.”

Caity Maple, a capitol lobbyist for WeDrop, a Northern California cannabis delivery service, said the abundance of local bans are creating “a near impossible regulatory environment for licensed delivery businesses to operate.”

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Describing the confusion, she testified: “In the city of Sacramento, a business can deliver if they’re licensed in another jurisdiction,” she testified. “But in the county of Sacramento, there is a complete ban on all commercial cannabis activity. In the county of Marin, businesses are allowed to deliver into the jurisdiction, but they cannot open up shop there. And in the city of San Francisco, you can open up shop and deliver within the city but you cannot deliver outside it.”

The California State Association of Counties, the League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Association registered opposition to the delivery bill, contending it intrudes on local control.

The legislation is the latest effort in California to address the state’s muddled regulatory landscape for cannabis delivery, in which the state may license or allow delivery services but local municipalities retain the legal right to prohibit them. In many areas, unauthorized delivery operators are still on the road, some continuing under nebulous California medical marijuana collectives rule due to expire next year.

While those operators will need state and local licenses, California’s cannabis regulatory czar Lori Ajax recently questioned whether the company Eaze – whose technology app facilitates cannabis delivery orders for California consumers – may also require licensure.