It is legal to cultivate cannabis in Merced County but in unincorporated areas of the county, this is limited to personal cannabis cultivation by residents aged 21 and older. The commercial cultivation of cannabis is prohibited in those areas. This is according to the county’s Cannabis Regulation Ordinance No. 1955 set in 2017 by the Merced County Board of Supervisors. The ordinance is the local implementation of the State of California’s Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA).
Commercial cannabis cultivation is allowed, subject to local licensing, in the City of Merced according to Section 20.44.170 of its municipal code, in the City of Atwater according to Chapter 5.60 of its municipal code, and in the City of Gustine subject to Section 4-48-060 of its municipal code. Each city has its own regulations covering cannabis cultivation businesses.
Cannabis grown for personal use and its products cannot be sold and must be used only by the grower. Not more than a total of six mature or immature plants may be grown in each residence.
Cultivation must be done fully indoors in a single-use private residence. This can be done within the home or in a fully enclosed structure within the grounds of the residential property. The plants and the cultivation area must be hidden from public sight and must be secured under lock and key from trespassing, burglary, and access by minors.
The grower must either own the property or have the property owner’s consent for cannabis cultivation in a signed notarized statement. The residence or the enclosed structure used for cannabis cultivation must comply with the county’s building code and electrical, lighting, and plumbing requirements.
The use of the property for cannabis cultivation must not interfere with its primary function as a residence and its legally required sanitation facilities and modes of ingress and egress. The growing of cannabis must also not hinder the use of the residence for sleeping and cooking.
If the cultivation results in light, glare, heat, noise, stench, vibration, or any other consequence that is harmful to the community's safety, health, or welfare, it may be declared to be a public nuisance.
In order to prevent the development of humidity, mildew, or other related issues, the cultivation space must have adequate ventilation. Each lamp cannot use more than 1,000 watts. Growers are Cann not permitted to utilize gas products such as CO2 or butane, or generators of CO2 and ozone.
It is not legal to manufacture cannabis commercially in unincorporated areas of Merced County, as mandated by the county’s Cannabis Regulation Ordinance No. 1955.
Locally licensed cannabis manufacturing businesses are, however, allowed in the cities of Merced, Atwater, and Gustine. Each city has its own regulations for cannabis manufacturing businesses.
It is not legal to sell cannabis by retail in unincorporated areas of Merced County. This is prohibited by Merced County’s Cannabis Regulation Ordinance No. 1955.
Cannabis retail businesses are allowed, though, in the cities of Merced, Atwater, and Gustine if locally licensed. Every city has particular regulations over cannabis retail businesses.
Yes, cannabis delivery is legal in unincorporated areas of Merced County but only for medical cannabis delivery to patients and caregivers who are holders of a Merced County medical marijuana card.
To legally deliver medical cannabis in Merced County, medical cannabis retailers outside the county must first hold an M10 license from the California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC). Afterward, they must then apply for a Merced County Business License from the County Community and Economic Development (CED) Department. The CED checks the application with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office and the applicant’s state M10 license.
In the cities of Merced, Atwater, and Gustine, a local delivery license is required. Regulations are specific to each city.
In compliance with California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996, Merced County residents can apply for inclusion in the Merced County Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) Program under the Merced County Department of Public Health (MCDPH).
The applicant’s primary care doctor must have recommended cannabis treatment in managing any of the following eligible medical conditions, as indicated in the downloadable Written Documentation of the Patient’s Medical Records:
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
Persistent muscle spasms
Chronic medical symptoms that significantly limit important life activities
Chronic medical symptoms that seriously affect physical and mental health and safety
The recommendation may be written on the Written Documentation or the doctor’s letterhead.
The applicant must also download and fill up the application form that can be used for patients and caregivers and set an appointment at:
Merced County Department of Public Health
260 15th Street
Appointments for the county’s MMIC Program are on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If the patient requires a caregiver, the patient must submit an application for the caregiver, as well, and the caregiver must join the patient for the application appointment.
In addition to the completed application form, applicants must bring these requirements:
The applicant’s proof of identity through a valid government-issued photo ID
The applicant’s proof of county residency with name and current address, such as a utility bill
The primary doctor’s medical recommendation
The primary doctor’s name, contact details, and California medical license number
The non-refundable application fee of $225 for either patient or caregiver
The current card of Medi-Cal beneficiaries, to reduce the application fee to $112.50
The following are the requirements for primary caregivers:
The primary caregiver must have been responsible for the patient’s health, housing, or safety.
The primary caregiver must be aged 18 or older, unless the parent of a patient who is a minor, an emancipated minor, or has taken responsibility for the patient’s safety, health, and housing.
The primary caregiver must be chosen by the patient or the patient’s legal representative.
A patient may have one primary caregiver who is not working in a licensed health facility. If more than one is needed, a maximum of three is allowed provided the caregivers are owners, operators, or employees of a healthcare facility, hospice, or home care agency.
A primary caregiver who resides in Merced County may be responsible for more than one patient in the county. However, a primary caregiver not residing in Merced County is allowed to have only one patient.
The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) will send the approved medical marijuana card to the MCDPH. It is valid for one year and must be renewed.
According to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), state tax revenue for the third quarter of 2022, only as of November 16, was $242 million. Of this, $128.4 million was from cannabis excise taxes and $113.6 million was from cannabis sales taxes. The amount does not include tax revenues earned by counties and cities.
In the second quarter of 2022, cannabis state tax revenues reached $299.8 million. Of this, $146.7 million was from cannabis excise taxes, $125.6 million was from cannabis sales taxes, and $27.5 million was from cannabis cultivation taxes. Cultivation taxes were, however, removed in July 2022.
The total state tax revenues from cannabis from January 2018 to November 16, 2022 is $4.4 billion. This includes $2.2 billion from cannabis excise taxes, $1.7 billion from cannabis sales taxes, and $500.3 million from previous cultivation taxes.
Since Merced County does not allow any cannabis businesses within the boundaries of its unincorporated areas, it does not collect any cannabis tax revenues from there. It can only earn revenues from the municipalities that allow cannabis businesses.
For instance, Chapter 3.54 of the municipal code of the City of Atwater imposes an annual business tax on cannabis businesses of 15 cents out of every dollar of gross sales.
Section 3.52.100 of the municipal code of the City of Merced imposes the following annual business taxes on cannabis businesses:
For cannabis cultivation businesses, $25.00 for every square foot of canopy or 10% of gross sales, whichever is higher
For cannabis manufacturing businesses, $25.00 for every square foot of the manufacturing space
For cannabis retail businesses, 10% of recreational cannabis gross sales and 7% of medical cannabis gross sales
Medical cannabis delivery was allowed in Merced County since 2017. According to data reported by the Merced County Sheriff’s Office on the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer page, in 2016, there were 208 arrests for drug abuse violations, of which 22 were for marijuana possession and six were for marijuana manufacturing or sales. In 2020, this decreased to 171 arrests for drug abuse violations, of which one was for marijuana possession.
According to the Merced County Highway Patrol data on the same page, there were 713 DUI arrests in 2016. This decreased to 534 in 2020.