Nevada County Cannabis Overview

  1. California Cannabis
  2. Nevada County Cannabis

Is Cannabis Cultivation Legal in Nevada County?

Yes. Cannabis cultivation is legal in Nevada County. The County Board of Supervisors approved the Nevada County Commercial Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance in May 2019, thereby permitting the cultivation of cannabis subject to specific regulations. Pursuant to the Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance, cannabis cultivation is prohibited on any parcel or premises within the unincorporated territories of Nevada County except on parcels or premises with legally established residences. Cultivation is also prohibited on any premises located:

  • Within 1,000 feet of a place considered a sensitive site in Nevada County.
  • Where cannabis or any portion thereof (mature or immature) is visible from the public right-of-way or publicly traveled private roads
  • Within any setback area as specified in Subsection D of the county cannabis ordinance.

Per Section D of the Ordinance, cannabis may be cultivated:

  • Only by an entity or individual engaging in commercial cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes, including operation of a nursery in compliance with county and state laws
  • On premises with a permanent, occupied, legally permitted residence.
  • By a resident for personal use in accordance with Subsection E of the county ordinance and other applicable state and local laws.

Indoor and Mixed-Light Cannabis Cultivation are permitted only in approved accessory structures that comply with all applicable laws of the County's Land Use and Development Code and are permitted for the stated type of cannabis cultivation. Cultivation is prohibited in kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, common areas, or any other space in a structure that is used, designed or intended for human occupancy.

Structures exempt from the requirement of obtaining construction permits under the Nevada County Land Use and Development Code may be utilized for Commercial Cannabis Cultivation if they meet all applicable standards of the Land Use and Development Code. Regardless of the foregoing, cannabis cultivation for personal use is permitted within a private residence but not in bedrooms or kitchens.

Personal use cannabis cultivation may occur only on a premises or parcel with an occupied legally permitted primary place of residence and only in these zones:

  • R-A (residential designation), R-1, R-2, and R-3, on parcels of any size: For indoors, a maximum of 6 plants, whether mature or immature. Mixed-light or outdoor cultivation is prohibited here.
  • RA (rural and estate designation): For parcels of 5 acres or more, indoors, mixed-light, and outdoor cannabis cultivation or a combination of methods may be conducted with a maximum of 6 plants, mature or immature.
  • AG, FR, AE, TPZ: For parcels equal to or less than 1.99 acres
  • Indoor cultivation is permitted with a maximum of 6 plants, mature or immature
  • Mixed-light and outdoor cultivation is prohibited
  • For parcels of 2.0 acres or bigger: Indoors, mixed-light, and outdoor cannabis cultivation of a maximum of 6 plants, mature or immature.

Commercial cannabis cultivation may occur in permitted locations in these zones only:

  • AG, FR, and AE: For parcels of between 2 and 4.99 acres: Indoors, outdoor, and mixed-light cultivation or a combination of these methods within 2,500 square feet of canopy.
  • For parcels of between 10 and 19.99 acres: Indoors, outdoor, and mixed-light cultivation or a combination of these methods within 5,000 square feet of canopy.
  • For parcels of between 10 and 19.99 acres: Indoors, outdoor, and mixed-light cultivation or a combination of these methods within 10,000 square feet of canopy.

Note that the 6 plants permitted for cultivation on any premises for personal cannabis use may be cultivated in addition to the quantities permitted for commercial cannabis cultivation. If there is direct access from one parcel to the other, Nevada County permits commercial cannabis cultivation on premises with multiple parcels. However, the total canopy area must not exceed the permitted area based on the largest of the parcel sizes and the parcel area used for cultivation.

A person or entity may obtain a maximum of three cultivation permits to engage in Commercial Cannabis Activities. No person may own more than eight commercial cannabis companies or enterprises in Nevada County.

Nevada County cannabis ordinance also specifies that primary caregivers may cultivate no more than 500 square feet of canopy per qualified patient for up to 5 specified eligible patients for whom they are designated caregivers.

Cannabis cultivation, whether indoors, under mixed-light, or outdoors, on any parcel or premises in an area or in quantity greater than that specified as applicable above will be deemed a public nuisance that may be abated through any legal means available.

Is Cannabis Manufacturing Legal in Nevada County?

Cannabis manufacturing is a prohibited activity in Nevada County. In contrast to the county code and as permitted under Proposition 64, cannabis ordinances in cities and municipalities within Nevada County may differ from the regulations in the county code. For instance, Colfax City permits a maximum of two cannabis manufacturers using non-volatile methods in their manufacturing process to operate in the city. Operation requirements for manufacturing facilities in Colfax City are contained in Section 5.32.370 of the city ordinance.

Is Cannabis Retail Legal in Nevada County?

Medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal in Nevada County. Per Section L-II 2.4 and Section L.II 2.5 of the Nevada County Code, medical marijuana dispensaries are not permitted in the county's commercial and industrial districts. However, California's MAUCRSA (Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act) grants local jurisdictions the right to regulate cannabis businesses as they deem fit. This provision means local jurisdictions can outrightly prohibit all cannabis activities or authorize specific cannabis businesses or activities in their jurisdictions.

Backed by the MAUCRSA provision, the Nevada City municipal code authorizes the city to permit one medical marijuana dispensary to operate within Nevada City. Before commencing operations, the medical marijuana dispensary must obtain a medical marijuana business permit from the city and comply with all applicable state and federal laws governing its operation. Colfax City also permits one medicinal cannabis retailer to operate within the city borders per County Ordinance No. 542.

Is Cannabis Delivery Legal in Nevada County?

Cannabis delivery is illegal in Nevada County in accordance with the county code. However, pursuant to Proposition 64, some cities in Nevada County permit cannabis delivery. In Colfax City, cannabis delivery services may operate pursuant to compliance with the operating requirements in Section 5.32.340 of the City Ordinance. Delivery services in the city may only occur during regular business hours of retail cannabis business. Through its municipal code, Nevada City also permits cannabis delivery services in its jurisdiction.

How to Get Medical Marijuana Card in Nevada County

Nevada County residents may obtain the medical marijuana identification card (MMIC) under the state medical marijuana program. The MMIC is available to Nevada County residents suffering from one or more of the approved medical conditions in California. Designated primary caregivers can also obtain primary caregiver identification cards under the California MMP. The MMIC protects the cardholder from arrest for possessing specific amounts of marijuana under Proposition 215 and SB 2420.

Applications for MMICs in Nevada County are by appointment only at the County Public Health Department (PHD). Before scheduling an appointment with the Department, the applicants are required to obtain written recommendations from their physicians and ensure that copies of the recommendations are kept on file with the physicians. Nevada County includes an optional form in the application packet which may be used for the recommendation. If another format is used, the applicant must ensure that it contains the same information as the form in the application packet.

Applicants are also required to provide their physicians with signed "Authorization for Release of Medical Records" forms for their medical files. The release form is included in the application packet. A copy of the release form is required at the appointment. To schedule an appointment with the Nevada County Public Health Department, contact the Department by calling (530) 265-1450. You can also contact the PHD at:

Public Health Department

MMIC Program

500 Crown Point Circle

Suite 110

Grass Valley, CA 95945

Phone: (530) 265-7264

Fax: (530) 271-0829

The following will be required at the scheduled appointment:

  • A completed application form
  • Copy of the Medical Release form
  • The original copy of the written recommendation from the physician. This recommendation will be returned to the applicant at the end of the appointment.
  • Signed and dated attending physicians Attestation form
  • A government-issued picture identification, such as a military ID, driver's license, and passport. If you are under 18 and do not have photographic identification, you may substitute the requirement with a certified copy of your birth certificate. If you indicate a primary caregiver on your application form, the caregiver must provide photographic identification when the application is submitted. If the primary caregiver is under 18 and does not have government-issued picture identification, they may use a certified birth certificate.
  • Proof of Nevada County residency. A valid state motor vehicle registration, current rent or mortgage receipt, or utility bill in the patient's name bearing the current address in the county is acceptable.
  • Medi-Cal or CMSP card, if applicable. Participation in Medi-Cal at the time of application qualifies the applicant for a 50% fee discount. Application fees are nonrefundable.
  • Application fee. The fee is $100 for each patient and caregiver. Patients with valid Medi-Cal cards at the time of application will pay $50. Application fees are nonrefundable. Application fees are waived for applicants with active CMSP cards at the time of application.

The following will be required for a primary caregiver application:

  • Completed Section 4 of the MMIC application
  • A government-issued picture identification
  • Proof of California residency
  • Attending physician signed and dated Attestation form
  • Application fee
  • Medi-Cal or CMSP card, if applicable

Note that a digital photograph of the applicant and the primary caregiver, if applicable, will be taken at the scheduled appointment. After submitting the MMIC application, the County Public Health Department will verify the physician's license with the State Medical Board or Osteopathic Medical Board. In addition, the physician's recommendation and the Attestation will be reviewed.

The Public Health Department (PHD) is obligated to verify the correctness of the information on the application and to decide whether to approve or deny the application within 30 days of receipt. If additional information or paperwork is requested, the PHD will notify the applicant. The applicant has 30 days from the notification date to provide any missing information or documentation. If the applicant submits the missing information, the PHD has 14 days from receipt of the information or the remainder of the first 30-day processing period to approve or deny the application, whichever is longer.

Following approval of the application, the MMIC will be available to the applicant within 5 business days from the approval date of the MMIC application. If an application is denied, the applicant has 30 days from the notice date to appeal the decision to the state Department of Public Health.

How Has Cannabis Legalization Impacted the Economy of Nevada County?

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) maintains a record of sales income from the cannabis sector for all counties in the state. Data for Nevada County is only available for 2018, the fourth quarter of 2020, and the first quarter of 2021. Following the approval of recreational cannabis sales in early 2018, Nevada County generated $5.46 in per capita sales and $536,113 in total taxable sales in the second quarter of the year. In the third quarter of 2018, Nevada county generated $6.06 in per capita sales and $595,112 in total taxable sales. In the last quarter of 2018, the figures were $8.42 in per capita sales and $826,417 in total taxable sales. Hence, in total, in 2018, Nevada County accrued $19.94 in per capita sales and $1,957,642 in taxable sales.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Nevada County generated $55.95 in per capita sales and $5,470,831 in total taxable sales. For the only period where a record was available on the CDTFA website in 2021, Nevada County generated $57.31 in per capita sales and $5,586,625 in total taxable sales in the first quarter of 2021. This record shows an upward trend in the fiscal impact of the cannabis industry on the economy of Nevada County.

The Effects of Cannabis Legalization on Crime Rates in Nevada County

According to information obtained from incidents recorded by the Nevada County Sheriff's Office, Nevada County has witnessed steadily declining marijuana-related crime rates since recreational cannabis sales was approved in California.

In 2018, Nevada County recorded 21 DUI arrests, 1 arrest for marijuana possession, and 5 arrests for marijuana sales. In 2019, the county recorded 20 DUI arrests, 2 arrests for marijuana possession, and no arrests for marijuana sales. Nevada County recorded 6 arrests for DUI in 2020. In that year, the arrest record for marijuana possession and marijuana sales were 2 and none, respectively.

In the years immediately preceding recreational marijuana sales, the county recorded 24 DUI arrests in 2015, 16 DUI arrests in 2016, and 24 DUI arrests in 2017. Marijuana possession arrests figures were 12, 13, and 2 in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Arrest figures for drug sales were 11, 13, and 3 in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Nevada County Cannabis Overview