Alameda County Cannabis Overview

  1. California Cannabis
  2. Alameda County Cannabis

Is Cannabis Cultivation Legal in Alameda County?

In California, where Alameda County is located, both medical cannabis and recreational cannabis are legal. The voters in California approved Proposition 215, otherwise known as the Compassionate Use Act, in 1996 to legalize medical cannabis. This Act allows individuals 18 years and older and certain minors who need cannabis for medical purposes to use it without fear of criminal prosecution. Similarly, in 2016, the state voters approved Proposition 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act) to legalize recreational cannabis in California. Proposition 64 permits adults 21 years and over to use marijuana for recreational purposes in California. Despite being legal at the state level, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) passed by the Senate in 2017 allows each county or city to determine the legal status of cannabis in their domain.

In September 2017, Alameda County adopted ordinances to permit and regulate medical cannabis within the county borders. The ordinances in Title 17 (Zoning Ordinance) and Chapters 6.106 and 6.108 of the Alameda County Ordinance Code authorize cannabis cultivation in unincorporated Alameda County. The unincorporated parts of Alameda County are Castro Valley, Ashland, Sunol, Cherryland, San Lorenzo, and Fairview. The Alameda County Ordinance Code describes cannabis cultivation as any activity involving the planting, growing, harvesting, grading, curing, drying, and trimming of cannabis for recreational or medical use in line with MAUCRSA.

An individual or entity must obtain a local permit to cultivate commercial cannabis in Alameda County legally. Before operating a cannabis cultivation site in the county, a permittee must obtain a conditional use permit as required by Sections 17.06.40 and 17.52.585 of the county's Zoning Ordinance. The county limits the number of cultivation permits to only 10 cultivation sites. A cannabis cultivation area in Alameda County must be at least 1,000 feet away from any of the following places:

  • Licensed child or daycare facility
  • A public recreation center, playground, or park
  • Pre-K to 12th-grade school
  • A drug or alcohol recovery facility

Any area marked out for cannabis cultivation activities in the county must be at least 50 feet away from any property line shared with a property owned by a different person. Similarly, a cannabis cultivation area must be at least 300 feet from any residence on an adjacent property not owned by the cultivator unless the owner issues their written consent. Besides indoor cultivation, Alameda County permits outdoor cannabis cultivation if approved by the permittee's conditional use permit. However, the cultivation area must be fenced in such a way that the cannabis plants are not visible to the public.

Is Cannabis Manufacturing Legal in Alameda County?

Yes. However, the county does not issue permits for stand-alone cannabis manufacturing businesses. An individual or entity that wishes to engage in cannabis manufacturing legally in Alameda County must obtain a permit and all requisite California licenses to conduct a combined cannabis operation. In Alameda County, a combined cannabis business operation engages in at least three out of the following commercial cannabis operations: cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and retail. According to the Alameda County Ordinance Code, cannabis manufacturing is the process of transforming raw cannabis into an edible product, topical product, and other cannabis products using extraction methods or chemical synthesis, or both.

Alameda County Ordinance Code, Chapters 6.106 and 6.108, require a person to hold a cannabis cultivation operator permit or a valid cannabis retail operator permit to conduct a combined cannabis business operation; hence, cannabis manufacturing. A combined cannabis operation permit authorizes its holder to use the same premises for the three cannabis commercial activities or interests. Alameda County prohibits cannabis extraction using volatile solvents for a manufacturing activity under a combined cannabis operations permit.

A combined cannabis operation permit holder in Alameda County that includes a manufacturing operation must handle all manufacturing processes in compliance with applicable California law and regulations. They must also conduct cannabis manufacturing in line with standards and guidelines the Director of the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health may adopt from time to time. Besides the manufacturing process, they must make arrangements to test their products according to the applicable state laws and regulations. The county Ordinance Code also requires a combined cannabis operations permit holder that includes a manufacturing activity to dispose of all waste cannabis and cannabis products generated during production.

Is Cannabis Retail Legal in Alameda County?

Yes, and as such, the county allows cannabis retail operations (dispensaries) in its unincorporated parts. According to Chapter 6.108.020 of the Alameda County Ordinance Code, a cannabis retail operation is any premises that engage in the retail sale of cannabis, cannabis products, or cannabis paraphernalia. Widely sold cannabis products at dispensaries in Alameda County include concentrates, edibles, and topical products. Adults 21 years and older in the county can buy these items individually or in any combination for medical and recreational uses. Similarly, qualified patients 18 years or older and primary caregivers with medical marijuana cards can buy cannabis products in Alameda County. The county's Ordinance requires anyone interested in selling cannabis or cannabis products to obtain a cannabis retail operation permit. However, the maximum number of retail operation permits Alameda County can have, at any time, is five.

Cannabis retail operations in Alameda County must comply with the zoning requirements specified in Title 17 of the county's Ordinance Code and plans applicable to the retail operation location. A retail operation, including the one that is a part of a combined cannabis operation, must be at least 1,000 feet away from a public playground and licensed daycare facility. They must also be located at least 1,000 feet away from a school, recreation center, drug recovery facility, and any other cannabis retail operation. Alameda County prohibits situating a cannabis retail operation in a residential zone.

In Alameda County, a cannabis retail operator selling recreational cannabis or cannabis products must not permit individuals under 21 years of age on its facility or sell to them. Also, it must not employ anyone under the age of 21. All the activities of a retail operation must take place within their premises. They must not operate between 9:00 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. or between 12:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on any day. Alameda County requires a cannabis retail operator to monitor the purchasing limits of qualified patients and primary caregivers to prevent them from buying more than 8 ounces within any month. A retail operator must not hold a license to sell alcoholic beverages or sell alcoholic beverages on the same premises as the cannabis retail operation.

Is Cannabis Delivery Legal in Alameda County?

Cannabis delivery is legal in Alameda County. However, only licensed cannabis retail operators with physical retail locations within the county can obtain cannabis delivery operator permits for cannabis delivery. Mobile retail businesses are not eligible for cannabis delivery in Alameda County and cannot get this permit.

According to the Alameda County Ordinance Code, cannabis delivery operators can deliver cannabis to persons 21 years or older and primary caregivers. They can also deliver cannabis to medical patients with medical marijuana cards as specified by Section 11362.7 of the California Health and Safety Code. A cannabis delivery service must not provide medical cannabis to persons under 18 years unless such individuals are qualified medical patients with medical marijuana cards. The county prohibits anyone under 21 years of age from delivering cannabis.

How to Get Medical Marijuana Card in Alameda County

A medical marijuana card in Alameda County is used by qualified patients registered under the California Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP) to access cannabis legally. It is proof that a patient has their physician's recommendation to use marijuana for personal medical purposes.

For anyone to be eligible for a medical marijuana card in Alameda County, such an individual must be at least 18 years old. Qualifying patients under the age of 18 must provide their parents' or legal guardians' consents to obtain the card or show evidence that they are independent. It is also crucial for them to provide proof of residence in Alameda County. Documents such as motor vehicle registration issued by the DMV, utility bills, and mortgage or rental agreement with current Alameda County addresses are acceptable for this purpose. The MMICP equally requires them to have a recommendation from a licensed physician attesting that they need medical marijuana to manage certain medical conditions. Qualifying medical conditions include cancer, AIDS, arthritis, anorexia, severe nausea, glaucoma, seizures, and migraine. Others are persistent muscle spasms, chronic pain, and persistent medical symptoms that limit a person's ability to perform major life activities. A caregiver that meets these conditions is also qualified to obtain a medical marijuana card in Alameda County.

To get a medical marijuana card in Alameda County, an eligible patient must complete a Medical Marijuana Program Application/Renewal Form (DHS 9042) and provide a valid government-issued ID. They should submit these and other required documentation in person at:

Alameda County Public Health Department

1100 San Leandro Boulevard

San Leandro, CA 94577

Medical marijuana card application submissions at the Health Department are by appointment only. Interested and eligible persons can schedule an appointment with the department by contacting them at (510) 268-2977. The Health Department requires an individual to apply in person because it needs to take their photo, which will appear on their medical marijuana card. Afterward, it will contact the patient's physician's office to verify the medical information provided in their application form.

The Alameda County Public Health Department requires a medical marijuana card applicant to pay a $100 fee to cover the application fee. Once this payment is made and the Health Department makes the required verifications, a medical marijuana card will be issued to an applicant under 35 days.

How Has Cannabis Legalization Impacted the Economy of Alameda County?

Alameda County legalized cannabis in late 2017 and currently charges 10.25% as sales and use tax rate. The county charges sales tax on the sale of marijuana and marijuana products. Cannabis legalization in Alameda County has had a positive impact on the county's economy. This conclusion follows from the total cannabis taxable sales figures published by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) between 2018 and 2021.

In 2018, the CDTFA reported $138.9m as the amount generated as cannabis taxable sales in Alameda County. This figure jumped to $202.1m in 2019. In 2020, the CDTFA reports showed that the county cannabis industry made about $280.4m in taxable sales, an amount that doubled the sales generated in 2018. Between the first and the third quarters of 2021, Alameda County generated $207.5m from the sales of cannabis. The consistent increasing trend of the cannabis sales tax figures over the years indicates that Alameda County will possibly close 2021 with an even higher taxable sales amount than 2020. As these figures increase yearly, it translates to increasing tax revenues, hence its positive impact on the economy of Alameda County.

The Effects of Cannabis Legalization on Crime Rates in Alameda County

According to a 2015 report by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Alameda County recorded 6,496 DUI arrests in 2013, a 7.2% decline compared to 2012. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, DUI arrest figures reported by the DMV in a 2018 report for the county are 6,405, 5,319, and 5,478, respectively. Alameda County recorded 4,820 DUI arrests in 2017, while 5,172 arrests were made in 2018, according to a 2020 report published by the DMV. The county saw a 7.3% jump in DUI arrests in 2018 compared to 2017. These DMV reports indicated an erratic trend in the number of DUI arrests made between 2012 and 2018. Although the DMV is yet to publish the figures for 2019 and 2020, cannabis legalization in the county does not seem to affect DUI arrest rates in Alameda County.

A review of the crime report by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) for Alameda County indicates an erratic trend in the number of drug-related arrests between 2011 and 2014. Although inconsistent, the trend shows a staggering number of arrests made for the offense in those four years. Between 2015 and 2017, the arrest figures for drug-related offenses in the county dipped notably. The lowest within this period was 1,297 arrests in 2017, the year Alameda County legalized cannabis. The number of drug-related arrests made in the county dropped further between 2018 and 2020. In 2018, the figure was 1,062, while it was 840 in 2019. The county recorded an all-time low in 2020 with 641 drug-related arrests. This tremendous drop in the figure can be attributed mainly to cannabis legalization, as law enforcement made fewer cannabis-related arrests.

Alameda County Cannabis Overview