Commercial cannabis cultivation in San Benito County is illegal. However, cannabis cultivation and other cannabis business activities are legal in California, San Benito County's native state. The state legalized cannabis for medical use in 1996 when voters approved the Compassionate Use Act, commonly known as Proposition 215. It was the first in the United States to achieve this feat. Proposition 215 permits patients 18 years and over diagnosed to have debilitating medical conditions to use cannabis for medical purposes. Also, under this Act, minors with certain severe medical conditions are permitted to use medical cannabis. While Proposition 215 allows a patient with a physician's recommendation to grow whatever amount of cannabis is required for personal medical use, they must not exceed reasonable amounts. Such amounts are usually subject to local limits and land-use restrictions.
In November 2016, California voters again passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, also known as Proposition 64, to legalize recreational cannabis. This Act permits adults 21 years or older to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. Besides allowing commercial cannabis activities in the state, adults 21 years and over can cultivate up to six marijuana plants for personal use under Proposition 64. In 2017, California had a comprehensive review of the laws regulating cannabis. The review birthed the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). This Act made adjustments to California's cannabis legalization laws. It permits local governments to choose to adopt ordinances to regulate local cannabis business activities in their jurisdictions. MAUCRSA instituted the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) to oversee cannabis activities in California.
Chapter 11.15.040 of the San Benito County Code prohibits the outdoor cultivation of cannabis. It also describes doing so as a public nuisance. In San Benito County, personal cultivation exceeding six plants is considered illegal and a public nuisance. Cultivation of cannabis on any premises is also unlawful unless the owner or occupant obtains a waiver from the Director of the Resources Management Agency before cultivation. To submit a waiver request, the county Code requires the owner of the premises or the individual occupying the place to tender the premises' annual registration and provide the following documentation and information:
Cannabis manufacturing is one of the approved cannabis business activities in San Benito County. However, anyone who wishes to engage in cannabis manufacturing must obtain the required permit before commencing operations. Cannabis manufacturing activities can occur in the county's Agricultural, Controlled Manufacturing, Light Industrial, Heavy Industrial, and Resources Recovery Park Districts. A manufacturer requires a conditional use permit to operate in each zoning district.
In San Benito County, a cannabis manufacturing facility must not be within 300 feet of any residential land as of the date of applying for a permit. Similarly, it must be at least 1,000 feet away from any zoned parcel containing a sensitive use that existed when applying for the relevant permit. Chapter 19.43 of the San Benito County Code requires a cannabis manufacturing facility to be constructed to minimize odors to the surroundings. They must obtain the necessary building permits and approvals from the health and fire departments.
It is also crucial for a cannabis manufacturing facility to implement adequate security measures to prevent unauthorized access into the facility, particularly the section containing cannabis and cannabis products. Parts of such security measures include installing perimeter lighting systems, alarm systems, security surveillance cameras, and a movement detector. The county Code requires a cannabis manufacturing establishment in San Benito County to have a procedure for safely and securely storing and transporting cannabis products. Any manufacturing facility producing cannabis extracts must develop excellent manufacturing practices and standard procedures.
No. Chapter 7.02 of the San Benito County Code expressly prohibits cannabis retail of any kind and subjects it to all applicable enforcement. Cannabis retail includes managing or operating a cannabis non-store front or a storefront establishment where deliveries are made, or customers are allowed on the premises for commercial purposes.
Also, Chapter 25.9 of the San Benito County Code prohibits establishing or operating marijuana dispensaries in any of the county's zoning districts. The county Code describes a marijuana dispensary as any for-profit or not-for-profit facility or building, whether mobile, fixed, temporary, or permanent, where cannabis is sold or distributed. The county does not approve a use permit, building permit, or grant any other approval required for the establishment or operation of any cannabis dispensary.
In San Benito County, a cannabis dispensary does not include the following uses provided the San Benito County Code regulates the location of such uses, and any such use complies with applicable law:
California licensed cannabis retailers outside San Benito County, including micro-businesses with a retail component, can deliver cannabis to the county. However, Chapter 7.02 of the San Benito County Code requires such delivery services to obtain the relevant cannabis business permits and valid approval for commercial cannabis activities from their local jurisdiction.
Before beginning cannabis delivery operations in San Benito County, out-of-county delivery services must obtain cannabis employee work permits for any personnel delivering cannabis in the county. They must also provide relevant details of all delivery vehicles and ensure they meet the requirements outlined under division (H), Section 7.02.130 of the San Benito County Code. The county requires out-of-county cannabis delivery services to maintain a detailed list of all its delivery personnel and vehicles and notify the county's relevant authority in writing within 30 days of any change in that list.
Cannabis or cannabis products to be delivered in San Benito County must not be visible to the public. Hence, they must be locked in boxes and secured inside the delivery vehicle. Out-of-county delivery services must be made in person and not through uncrewed vehicles. They can deliver cannabis to residential addresses in San Benito County, provided such a building is located on publicly owned land. Delivery services can deliver cannabis products to persons 21 years or older. Additionally, they can deliver to persons 18 years and above with medical marijuana cards. A delivery service can only operate within San Benito County between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. daily or as stipulated in the conditions of the cannabis business permit.
Following the passage of SB 420, California established the Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program, which requires individual counties, including San Benito County, to administer a voluntary medical marijuana card registration program. The essence of this program is to identify patients who have physicians' recommendations to use cannabis for medical purposes.
To get a medical marijuana card in San Benito County, a person must apply in person to the county's Department of Health and Human Services. However, an applicant must be eligible for California's Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program. To be eligible, the applicant must:
All applications for medical marijuana cards in San Benito are by appointment only. Applicants can contact the county's Department of Health and Human Services at (831) 637-5367 to schedule an appointment for the first or third Tuesday of any month between 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
To apply for a medical marijuana card, an applicant must complete a Medical Marijuana Program Application/Renewal Form. They must also provide valid government-issued photo identification such as a driver's license, California ID, or a United States Passport. An original copy of the recommendation given to them by their physician is equally needed. Additionally, they will pay a non-refundable $137 medical marijuana card application fee (verified applicants on MediCal pay $68.50) via cashiers' checks or money orders only.
San Benito County Department of Health and Human Services requires a medical marijuana card applicant to submit a completed application form, documentation, and payment proof to its office at:
Department of Health and Human Services
351 Tres Pinos Road, Suite A-202
Hollister, CA 95023
The Department will take an applicant's digital photo on arrival at their office. They will also verify every medical information filled out on the application form by contacting the recommending physician's office. The Department submits applicants' details to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) electronically and makes their medical marijuana cards available within five working days. When an applicant's card is ready for pick-up, the Department will notify them to turn up and receive it, however, by appointment only.
The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) does not currently have data on cannabis tax revenues or sales in San Benito County. However, a review of cannabis taxable sales over the years for other counties in the state indicates a positive impact of cannabis legalization on their economies. It is, therefore, safe to conclude that cannabis has had a positive effect on San Benito County's economy, especially considering their tax rates on cannabis business activities.
The California Department of Justice (DOJ) hosts a report of drug-related arrests made by law enforcement in San Benito County long before recreational cannabis legalization in California. According to the report, the number of arrests for drug offenses was high pre-cannabis legalization. In 2013, San Benito County had 155 drug-related arrests, a notable increase over the previous year's report. The number of arrests further increased in 2014 to 197. There was a slight decline in the number of arrests on drug offenses in the county in 2015 to 184 and a further drop to 160 in 2016. This trend changed drastically in 2017, and the years following the legalization of recreational cannabis witnessed a significant decline in drug-related arrests in San Benito County. The county had 48 cases of drug-related arrests in 2017 and 46 in 2018. This figure fell further to 35 in 2019, while 2020 had an all-time-low of 16 drug offenses arrests.
According to a 2015 DMV report of the California DUI management information system to the state's legislature, San Benito County had 261 DUI arrests in 2013, a 26.1% increase over 2012. In 2014, the DUI arrest figure increased further to 354 but dropped to 257 in 2015, as reported in a 2018 report. The 2020 DUI report by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reported that in 2016, San Benito County had 216 DUI arrests, a 16% decline compared to 2015. However, DUI arrest rates switched gears in 2017 following recreational cannabis legalization. The county had 283 arrests in 2017, while 426 arrests were recorded in 2018, a 50.5% rise compared to 2017.
As of November 2021, the DMV has not released its annual report of the California DUI management information system for 2019 and 2020. However, considering the DUI statistics between 2016 and 2018, it is clear that the rate of DUI arrests in San Benito County increased after recreational cannabis legalization. The DMV reports for 2019 and 2020, when published, would help determine the exact impact of cannabis legalization on the county's DUI arrest rates.