California Cannabis Cultivation: CDFA Accepts All Changes to Proposed New Rules (and Then Some)
This past Friday, California’s three agencies charged with writing and enforcing cannabis regulations—the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), the Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Department of Food and Agriculture (DFA)—made public their respective proposed final regulations, which are currently pending a 30-day review by the Office of Administrative Law before becoming law. Some of the most significant and controversial changes appear in the BCC’s proposed final regulations, which govern a variety of licensees such as retailers, distributors, testing laboratories, and microbusinesses, and which we will be writing about in the coming days.
As for the DFA, which issues and enforces rules for cannabis cultivators, the proposed final rules are substantially the same as the modifications the agency proposed back in October. While “substantially the same” might sound innocuous, it amounts to acceptance of the October modifications, many of which were significant. Below are some initial takeaways.
Cultivation license “stacking.” It looks like the “stacking” work-around for the acreage cap is going to be permanent. Remember the controversy surrounding the state’s decision not to limit accumulation of small cultivation licenses by a single licensee so as to essentially create a loophole to the 1-acre cap, to the benefit of big farms. However…
Shared facilities limitations. It also looks like the DFA’s proposed modifications regarding shared spaces between licenses are also going to be permanent, creating a challenge for license “stackers”. As we explained here, what the DFA was proposing (and which now appears likely to become final) was restricting the ability of a single licensee holding multiple licenses from being able to use shared facilities for its various licenses. And whereas the areas excluded from shared use under the October modifications included immature plant-growing areas, processing or packaging areas, and administrative holding areas, it looks like we can now add to that list areas used for storage of harvested cannabis, which is an item that was removed from the allowable list of shared usage areas this time around (although there is some ambiguity in how that particular regulation could be interpreted).
What this means overall is that things are going to be more difficult for licensees holding more than one license (especially of the same type), as they will now have to arbitrarily create various dedicated areas on the cultivation premises to serve each specific license, even if they’re the same kind of license with the same kind of operation in every respect.
Structures on site. There is an interesting difference in the BCC proposed final rules compared to the DFA rules when it comes to the permanency of structures on the licensed premises. The BCC is aiming to require that all structures included as part of a BCC-licensed premises would have to be permanently affixed to the land, and this would specifically exclude things like shipping containers, mobile trailers, and non-affixed modular structured. We had suspected that the DFA might follow suit in its final proposed rules, especially because such structures are popular for cannabis farms, but it has not—no such explicit restriction appears in the DFA’s proposed final regulations.
Ownership, Financial Interests and Disclosure. There is also an interesting difference between ownership and financial interest holder disclosure requirements between the BCC and DFA proposed final rules. We previously wrote about how the BCC’s proposed final rules could sweep some landlords into the definition of “owner” or “financial interest holder” depending on the landlord’s relationship with the tenant. But another important difference between the BCC and DFA rules that we thought would be reconciled in the final rules but apparently will not be is the extent to which entities (as opposed to persons) that qualify as “owners” or “financial interest holders” of BCC licensee must undergo vetting and disclosure all the way up the chain of entity ownership, whereas there is no such explicit requirement for DPH or DFA licensees. We will be writing more on this specific difference in the coming days. Stay tuned.