Monterey County Cannabis – Is It Legal & Where To Buy 2024

Is Cannabis Cultivation Legal in Monterey County?

Yes. Cannabis is legal in Monterey County, so is the cultivation, as it is in California, the county's home state. California legalized medical cannabis in 1996 when the state's voters approved Proposition 215 the Compassionate Use Act. The state was the first to legalize medical cannabis in the United States. Proposition 215 allows medical patients 18 years or older diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions to use cannabis to manage their ailment. Under certain conditions, this Act permits minors to use medical cannabis. Besides cannabis use, Proposition 215 allows medical marijuana patients to cultivate cannabis for personal use. Recreational cannabis became legal in California in 2016 after state voters approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, otherwise known as Proposition 64. The Act legalized the possession, consumption, sales, and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 years and over for recreational purposes.

In 2017, the California Legislature passed the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) to clarify the state's existing cannabis laws. MAUCRSA permits each local jurisdiction in California to exclusively take its stance on cannabis within its boundaries. The Act also established the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) to regulate California's recreational and medical cannabis operations.

Monterey County adopted Title 21, Chapter 21.67 of the Monterey County Code of Ordinance in July 2016 to permit commercial cannabis operations, including cultivation. However, according to this Ordinance, cannabis cultivation in the unincorporated areas of Monterey County requires permits, licenses, and other approvals stipulated by local regulations and state rules. The outdoor cultivation of cannabis is forbidden in all zones within the unincorporated parts of Monterey County except as provided by the county's Code of Ordinance. No cannabis plant on a cultivation site or any visual marker indicating it is a cannabis site must be visible from off-site. Monterey County only permits cannabis cultivation in the following zoning districts:

  • Heavy Industrial zoning district (HI)
  • Light Industrial zoning district (LI)
  • Farmland zoning district (F)
  • Agricultural Industrial zoning district (AI)

According to the Monterey Code of Ordinance, a cannabis cultivation site must not be situated within a 600-foot radius of a youth center, school, playground, or drug recovery facility. Also, cultivators cannot place their cannabis sites in residential buildings. The county requires them to have security measures at their cannabis cultivation sites to prevent unauthorized access. However, the county's Code prohibits on-site security from bearing firearms.

The Monterey County Code of Ordinance also requires a cannabis cultivator to establish adequate measures to minimize water usage on their site. Cultivators must also institute proper quality control procedures to ensure that cannabis grown conforms with general industry standards. All commercial cannabis cultivation operations in Monterey County must comply with the county-approved operating plans.

Chapter 7.95 of the Monterey County Code of Ordinance permits personal cultivation of cannabis by qualified medical patients 18 years and older or primary caregivers. However, the county prohibits personal cannabis cultivation by qualified patients in its unincorporated areas without a permit. Personal cultivation of cannabis for medical uses must not exceed 100 square feet of any parcel, and the cultivator must obtain the requisite land use approvals.

Is Cannabis Manufacturing Legal in Monterey County?

Yes. The Monterey County Code of Ordinance permits cannabis manufacturing in the county. However, manufacturers must have the requisite permits for cannabis manufacturing operations. In Monterey County, a cannabis manufacturer engaged in a volatile process or using flammable substances can only operate in the HI zoning district. A non-volatile cannabis manufacturing facility that possesses a cannabis cultivation permit can operate in HI, LI, AI, F, or Heavy Commercial (HC) zoning districts. In both cases, the manufacturer must obtain an administrative permit to operate legally.

The Monterey County Code of Ordinance prohibits cannabis manufacturing establishments from establishing their facilities within a 600-foot radius of playgrounds, schools, child care centers, or any drug recovery facility. The county Code also requires permitted cannabis manufacturers to source cannabis only from approved cannabis cultivation sites. A cannabis manufacturing facility must restrict access to unauthorized persons and ensure standard security measures. Such measures include hiring on-site security personnel (they cannot carry firearms), installing security cameras, and providing safe storage of cannabis and cannabis products to prevent theft. Cannabis manufacturers in Monterey County must implement acceptable best practices at all times and ensure the proper labeling and storage of cannabis products before distribution at licensed dispensaries.

Is Cannabis Retail Legal in Monterey County?

Cannabis retail is legal in Monterey County, but any person operating a cannabis retail establishment must obtain a commercial cannabis permit as required by the Monterey County Code of Ordinance. The county Ordinance describes a retail facility as a dispensary. Dispensaries in the county can sell cannabis products such as edibles and concentrates to consumers who are 21 years or older. A cannabis retail facility must ensure that all cannabis and cannabis products they dispense are cultivated, manufactured, tested, and transported by approved cannabis facilities that comply with state and local laws.

In Monterey County, a cannabis dispensary must not be situated within 1,500 feet of another permitted retail facility except in some instances. In such situations, the retail facility operator must be able to prove the following beyond doubt to the relevant local authority:

  • That the proposed dispensary is situated within a rural center or a community area
  • When added to existing ones, the proposed dispensary would not lead to having more than two retail facilities in a rural center or result in more than three dispensaries in a designated community area.

Also, a cannabis dispensary must not be located within a 600-foot radius of a drug recovery center, a playground, a youth center, a school, or a child care center. A retail facility must consider this, especially if these places already exist when obtaining a local permit. The Monterey County Code of Ordinance only permits the establishments of cannabis dispensaries in Heavy Commercial (HC), Light Commercial (LC), and Mixed Use (MU) zoning districts within the county. The Code of Ordinance requires cannabis retail facilities to institute adequate security measures and restrict access by unauthorized persons. Dispensaries must keep comprehensive and accurate records of all their retail operations at all times.

Is Cannabis Delivery Legal in Monterey County?

The Monterey County Code of Ordinance does not distinguish between cannabis delivery only and storefront retailers. Currently, this Code requires all cannabis retailers to obtain a commercial business permit, administrative permit, a California license, and a business license. If the operations of a cannabis retailer in Monterey County will include delivery, the Code of Ordinance requires their delivery personnel to carry the following around when making deliveries:

  • A copy of the cannabis delivery request and a record for all goods being delivered per time
  • A copy of the retailer's valid permits that allows them to engage in cannabis delivery
  • The delivery personnel's government-issued ID

While cannabis delivery is not prohibited, the Monterey County Code of Ordinance does not stipulate in clear terms if cannabis retailers can deliver cannabis to persons with medical marijuana cards.

How to Get Medical Marijuana Card in Monterey County

The California Medical Marijuana Card Program (MMCIP) requires each county to institute a voluntary card registration program for medical cannabis patients. In Monterey County, the local health department issues medical marijuana cards to eligible and interested persons. A medical marijuana card proves that the cardholder has a licensed physician's recommendation to use cannabis for medical purposes.

To be eligible for a medical marijuana card in Monterey County, an individual must fulfill the following conditions:

  • Be at least 18 years old or have a document showing that the individual is emancipated if a minor. A minor who is still dependent must provide a parent's or legal guardian's approval.
  • Be a legal resident of Monterey County with proof such as a current utility bill with a valid Monterey County address or a current mortgage or rental receipt.
  • Have a verifiable recommendation given by a state-licensed physician stipulating that medical cannabis is suitable for the person's condition. Some of the qualifying medical conditions for cannabis in California are glaucoma, AIDS, arthritis, chronic pain, cancer, severe nausea, anorexia, seizures, and migraine.

A caregiver who meets these conditions is also eligible for a medical marijuana card. The MMCIP requires that a person apply for a medical marijuana card in person and present a valid government-issued photo ID. Acceptable IDs include a driver's license, California ID, or a United States passport. An applicant must also complete a DHS 9042 (Medical Marijuana Program Application/Renewal Form).

Getting a medical marijuana card in Monterey County is by appointment only. An applicant can call the local health department at (831) 755-4520 to book an appointment with them. A medical marijuana card application must be made in person because the local department will physically take a digital photo of the applicant. In Monterey County, the local health department charges a non-refundable $100 fee for a medical marijuana card, while verified applicants who are also Medi-Cal beneficiaries pay $50. The health department accepts only cashiers' checks and money orders as means of payment.

A medical marijuana card applicant in Monterey County should submit a completed application form, supporting documentation, and payment proof at:

Monterey County Health Department

1270 Natividad Road

Salinas, CA 93906

The health department attends to medical marijuana card applications between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Typically, the department will contact an applicant's physician to verify the medical information provided by the applicant before processing their request. Once verified, the health department will submit the applicant's request to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). An applicant can return to the health department and get their medical marijuana card once they are notified of its availability. However, they must do so by appointment only.

How Has Cannabis Legalization Impacted the Economy of Monterey County?

The value of total cannabis taxable sales in Monterey County has continued to grow since 2018, according to a report by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). In 2018, the county recorded $24.89m as total cannabis taxable sales between the second and fourth quarters of that year. This figure increased significantly in 2019 as the county sold $55.16m worth of taxable cannabis. The figure posted in 2020 ($59.51m) was not fantastic considering the giant leap between 2018 and 2019, but still well over 2019 sales. The CDTFA reported a total cannabis taxable sales of $52.66m for Monterey County between the first and third quarters of 2021. Considering the increasing trend of this parameter since 2018, Monterey County has a high chance of closing 2021 on a better note than 2020.

According to a tax report published by the Monterey County Treasurer, the county has generated considerable commercial cannabis business tax since 2016. For fiscal year (FY) 2016 to 2017, Monterey County made $2.8m in commercial cannabis business tax. The county recorded a massive 129% revenue growth from commercial cannabis businesses for FY 2017 to 2018 and closed the year with $13.3m. However, for FY 2018 to 2019, there was a slight drop ($12.1m) in tax revenue generated by the county from commercial cannabis sales. FYs 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021 witnessed cannabis tax revenue growths as both fiscal years recorded $16.4m and $18.2m, respectively. Cannabis operations that contributed to these revenues are manufacturing, cultivation, dispensary, nursery, and testing. The revenues generated from cannabis legalization have no doubt impacted the economy of Monterey County favorably.

The Effects of Cannabis Legalization on Crime Rates in Monterey County

In a 2018 report by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to the state's legislature, 2,227 DUI arrests were made by law enforcement in Monterey County in 2014. The DMW reported that 2,103 DUI arrests were made in the county in 2015, a slight decrease compared to the previous year. Monterey County adopted Ordinance to permit commercial cannabis business in 2016. By the end of that year, the number of DUI arrests in the county had gone up to 2,197. The DMV prepared another report for the California Legislature in 2020, where it reported that Monterey County had 2,022 DUI arrests in 2017 and 2,114 in 2018. These figures suggest that cannabis legalization does not significantly impact DUI arrest rates in the county.

Between 2011 and 2014, Monterey County had significantly high numbers of drug-related offenses, as found in the crime statistics hosted by the California Department of Justice (DOJ). Since 2015, the county has been recording three-digit drug offenses with 388 arrests in that year. This figure dropped further in 2016 to 293 drug arrests. That was the year Monterey County adopted Ordinance to allow commercial cannabis operations. In 2017, the county recorded 239 drug arrests, while in 2018 and 2019, 244 and 254 drug-related arrests were made, respectively. A careful review of the period before and after cannabis legalization in Monterey County shows a notable decline in drug offenses.

In this section:
Monterey County Cannabis Overview