Commercial cannabis activities are generally illegal in the unincorporated areas of Sacramento County. However, the county's home state, California, has legalized cannabis for medical and recreational uses. In 1996, California voters approved the Compassionate Use Act, otherwise known as Proposition 215, to become the first in the United States to legalize medical cannabis. Under this Act, the state permits qualified medical patients and their caregivers to cultivate cannabis for personal use. This is, however, subject to local laws.
A decade later, in November 2016, state voters again approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, codenamed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California. Proposition 64 allows adults 21 years or older to cultivate, possess, and use marijuana legally for recreational purposes. Under this Act, Californians can grow up to six cannabis plants in their households, subject to local approvals. In 2017, California passed SB 97 and created a regulatory framework designated the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulatory and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). MAUCRSA was instituted to administer the Adult Use Marijuana Act and harmonize it with the existing state's cannabis law. This Act allows each local jurisdiction in California to determine whether to permit cannabis businesses in their locality or not.
While Title 6, Chapter 6.88 of the Sacramento County Code bans outdoor and commercial cultivation of cannabis in the county's unincorporated areas, individuals can grow it under specific conditions. For personal cannabis cultivation, individuals can either grow their marijuana in an enclosed area of a private residence or a single room within such a home, but not both. A cannabis cultivation area within a private residence must not be visible to the public or accessible to minors or unauthorized persons. A person cultivating marijuana for personal use must have the legal right to occupy and use the residence and parcel for growing cannabis. If the cultivator does not own such a property, they must obtain the owner's written permission before cultivating cannabis. The county's Code limits the number of cannabis plants that a household can grow for personal use to six regardless of the number of persons occupying the private residence. Cannabis cultivation areas must be well ventilated and comply with Titles 16 and 17 of the county's Code. Any cannabis cultivation in Sacramento County that violates the specified requirements of personal cultivation stipulated in the county's Code is a misdemeanor and a public nuisance.
Cannabis manufacturing is illegal in the unincorporated territory of Sacramento County. However, on March 7, 2017, the city council of the City of Sacramento voted to lift a moratorium that prohibited cannabis business within the city boundaries. Consequently, people in the City of Sacramento now engage in cannabis manufacturing. Article 6, Title 5, Chapter 5.150 of the Sacramento City Code permits cannabis manufacturing within the city's borders subject to certain requirements. According to this Code, no individual can manufacture cannabis in the city without first obtaining a valid cannabis manufacturing permit from the city's Office of Cannabis Management. The City of Sacramento prohibits outdoor cannabis manufacturing. Hence, permitted cannabis manufacturers must conduct all manufacturing activities in a fully enclosed building so that cannabis and cannabis products are out of public sight. Cannabis manufacturers in the city must at all times display their valid permits in prominent places of their facilities.
While setting up a cannabis manufacturing site in the City of Sacramento, permit holders must separate all manufacturing areas within the building from the main entrance and lobby. Also, they must entirely separate the storage space for cannabis and cannabis products from the manufacturing facility's entrance and lobby. The entrance must be secured at all times by a lock accessible only to bonafide manufacturing site staff. The city Code prohibits a cannabis manufacturing permittee from hiring minors to work in their manufacturing site. It also requires them to install security surveillance cameras and alarm systems to monitor their manufacturing site's interior and exterior parts.
Sacramento County prohibits cannabis retail, and does not issue permits to dispensaries or cannabis retail stores for commercial operations, within the county's unincorporated region. However, the City of Sacramento permits the operation of storefront cannabis dispensaries, provided the operators have valid storefront cannabis dispensary permits. Article 3, Title 5, Chapter 5.150 of the Sacramento City Code allows a person who is at least 21 years old to buy cannabis or cannabis products at storefront cannabis dispensaries. If under age 21, an individual must prove that they are a qualified patient or primary caregiver. Similarly, an individual under 18 who is an eligible patient or a primary caregiver can purchase cannabis at storefront dispensaries, provided their parent or legal guardian accompanies them. Cannabis products available in approved storefront dispensaries include topicals, edibles, and concentrates.
In the City of Sacramento, storefront cannabis dispensary owners can only operate indoors. Any cannabis business approved to sell medical cannabis or recreational cannabis in the city can also sell cannabis accessories. The city's Code prohibits cannabis products sold at storefront cannabis dispensaries from being visible to the public. The entrance of a building accommodating a storefront cannabis dispensary must always be locked while a dedicated dispensary staff controls customers' entry. The city prohibits the consumption of cannabis or cannabis products on or within 20 feet of a storefront cannabis dispensary.
Cannabis delivery is illegal in Sacramento County, but the City of Sacramento permits the operations of delivery-only cannabis dispensaries with the requisite permit. A delivery-only cannabis dispensary sells cannabis and cannabis products by delivery only, not by transfer within the dispensary or anywhere on the dispensary site. They can only deliver cannabis to adults 21 years or older. A delivery request must include the requester's full name, details of the products requested, the date of the request, and the address to which the products will be delivered. It must also specify if the ordered product is for medical or recreational use.
According to Section 5.150.970 of the city Code, a delivery-only cannabis dispensary must have a designated restricted area for securely transferring cannabis and cannabis products to a delivery vehicle. Per Section 5.150.410 of the Sacramento City Code, a delivery-only cannabis dispensary authorized to sell medical cannabis can sell medical cannabis to qualified patients in compliance with California Medical Marijuana Act. They can equally sell to primary caregivers.
Medical marijuana cards are issued to qualified patients in Sacramento County under the California Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP). The MMICP requires counties to manage voluntary card registration programs that identify medical marijuana patients within their borders.
To get a medical marijuana card in Sacramento County, a qualified person must provide the following information and documentation:
An independent minor must provide this documentation/information alongside their proof of emancipation. A legal guardian or parent of a dependent minor must accompany them to apply for a medical marijuana card. A medical marijuana card application in Sacramento County is by appointment only. An applicant must submit their application in person at the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). To schedule an appointment, an interested individual should contact the DHHS at (916) 875-5345 any time during the week. Typically, appointments are reserved between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays.
A complete medical marijuana card application in Sacramento County must include a filled-out Medical Marijuana Program Application/Renewal Form (CDPH 9042). If the applicant has a caregiver, such a caregiver must complete their section of the application form. An applicant can submit a completed application form and required documentation in person at:
Department of Health and Human Services
7001 A East Parkway, Suite 650
Sacramento, CA 95823
The DHHS requires an applicant to pay a non-refundable application fee of $100, while a Medi-Cal beneficiary pays only $50. A Medi-Cal beneficiary must demonstrate membership by providing their Medi-Cal card. An application may be delayed if there is any missing document or information. However, if an application is accepted by the Department of Health and Human Services, the processing time is usually under 35 days.
A review of the report published by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) shows that cannabis total taxable sales in Sacramento County was $118.47m in 2018. In 2019, the county made a taxable sale of $195.89m on cannabis. The total taxable sales ($297.33m) generated by Sacramento County on cannabis in 2020 is twice as much as the figure recorded in 2018. In the first three quarters of 2021, the CDFTA reported that Sacramento County generated cannabis total taxable sales worth $237.46. All things being equal, the county will close the year stronger than it did in 2020. It is clear from these figures that Sacramento County rakes in huge revenues on cannabis sales tax yearly, which has a positive impact on the county's economy.
In 2013, the number of drug-related arrests made in Sacramento County, as reported by the California Department of Justice (DOJ), was 5,661. This figure increased to 6,444 in 2014 but declined significantly to 1,865 in 2015. The number of drug-related arrests further went down in 2016 and 2017 when the county recorded 1,673 and 1,109 arrests, respectively. In 2016, there was a slight increase which again came down in 2019 and 2020. These figures clearly show that cannabis legalization in some parts of Sacramento County has reduced the rates of drug-related offenses within the county.
Cannabis legalization in some parts of Sacramento County does not appear to have a notable impact on the county's DUI offense rates. A report by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in 2018 revealed the number of DUI arrests made in Sacramento County between 2014 and 2016. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, the county made 6,361, 5,059, and 4,574 DUI arrests, respectively. The percentage decline between 2015 and 2016 was 9.6%. In a 2020 report published by the DMV, 3,445 DUI arrests were made in Sacramento County, while it was 4,002 in 2018.