Although commercial cannabis activities, including cultivation, are illegal in Tuolumne County, California, the county's home state permits such activities. This follows the legalization of medical cannabis and recreational cannabis in the state. Medical cannabis became legal in California when the state's voters passed the Compassionate Use Act, otherwise known as Proposition 215, in 1996. In 2016, California voters again approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, also called Proposition 64, to legalize recreational marijuana. Under Proposition 215, patients 18 years and over with severe medical conditions and minors with certain debilitating medical conditions are permitted to use cannabis for medical purposes. The Act also allows a patient with a physician's recommendation to cultivate a reasonable amount of cannabis needed for personal medical use subject to approved local limits.
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act permits the possession, sale, use, and cultivation (up to six plants) of marijuana for adults 21 years and older in California for recreational purposes. To harmonize the state's existing cannabis laws, the California Legislature enacted the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) in 2017. This Act allows each local government to enforce reasonable regulations of cannabis and determine its legal status in their jurisdiction. It also mandates the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) to regulate cannabis activities within the state's borders.
Tuolumne County adopted Chapter 17.67 of the Tuolumne County Ordinance Code in 2016 to prohibit the commercial cultivation of cannabis within the county's unincorporated areas. This Ordinance Code describes commercial cannabis activities, including cultivation, as a public nuisance subject to administrative punishments outlined by the Code. While commercial cannabis cultivation is prohibited, the County Ordinance Code regulates all personal and non-commercial cannabis cultivation, subject to specific rules. These include:
Personal cannabis cultivation in Tuolumne County can occur indoors or outdoors. When indoor cultivation occurs within a residential unit, such a unit must not be used exclusively for cannabis cultivation. It must maintain fully functional facilities a standard residential unit should have. Persons engaged in indoor cannabis cultivation must implement ventilation and filtration systems to prevent mold accumulation and minimize cannabis odors from escaping outside the building.
Tuolumne County prohibits the personal outdoor cultivation of cannabis within 1,000 feet of any sensitive use. Outdoors cannabis cultivation must be done in areas fully enclosed by a nontransparent fence with a minimum height of 6 feet. However, any fence higher than 7 feet may require a building permit. The fence on an outdoor cultivation area must have a door or gate fittable with a lock to prevent unauthorized access.
According to Chapter 17.67 of the Tuolumne County Ordinance Code, commercial cannabis manufacturing is illegal and a public nuisance punishable by penalties as provided for by the Code. While commercial cannabis manufacturing is prohibited in the county's unincorporated areas, incorporated cities can have separate regulations on cannabis. For instance, the City Council of the City of Sonora adopted Ordinance 848 to regulate commercial cannabis activities and permit cannabis operations in some capacity within the city's boundaries.
In the City of Sonora, cannabis manufacturing establishments must maintain a conditional use permit and any applicable license. Such establishments can only operate in the city's Limited Manufacturing Zone (ML). The Sonora Ordinance 848 requires a cannabis manufacturing facility to install security surveillance and a video recording system to monitor every part of their business site. A manufacturing facility must equally install an alarm system to monitor incidents of robbery and fire. They must at all times restrict entry by unauthorized persons into their facility. A manufacturer must have the written consent of their landlord to operate a cannabis manufacturing business if they are not the owner of the manufacturing site. The city requires them to comply with approved commercial cannabis waste management procedures. Any permitted cannabis manufacturer must remit applicable taxes to the government as and when due.
Cannabis retail is illegal in the unincorporated areas of Tuolumne County. Chapter 17.67 of the Tuolumne County Ordinance Code describes the sale of cannabis as a public nuisance that subjects a person who engages in it to the administrative penalties stipulated in the Ordinance Code.
However, the City of Sonora allows the establishment of cannabis dispensaries, but they must obtain a conditional use permit and any other applicable license. A cannabis dispensary cannot be located in any other place besides the Limited Manufacturing (ML), Commercial (C), Tourist and Administrative (CO), and General Commercial (CG) zones of the city. A cannabis dispensary in the City of Sonora can only sell medical cannabis. Ordinance 848 requires them to install security surveillance cameras, an alarm system, and a video recording system to monitor their facility's interior and exterior parts and prevent unauthorized entry by any person.
No. Chapter 17.67 of the Tuolumne County Ordinance Code prohibits all forms of commercial cannabis activities, including delivery. The City of Sonora, an incorporated city in Tuolumne County, permits cannabis dispensary operations but forbids any commercial cannabis activity related to delivery unless done by a permitted cannabis dispensary. However, per Sonoma Ordinance 848, the city reserves the right to prohibit a cannabis dispensary from engaging in cannabis delivery services.
The Tuolumne County Health Department issues medical marijuana cards to patients who meet the criteria established by the Compassionate Use Act. The qualifying medical conditions for medical cannabis include AIDS, cancer, migraine, glaucoma, arthritis, anorexia, cachexia, muscle spasms, and seizures.
An eligible patient must provide the following documentation to get a medical marijuana card in Tuolumne County:
Applications for medical marijuana cards at the Tuolumne County Health Department are by appointment. The Department encourages applicants to contact their office by calling (209) 533-7401 or via email for appointment scheduling. Once a date is fixed, an applicant should appear at the office of the Health Department with a completed Medical Marijuana Program Application/Renewal Form and supporting documentation at:
Tuolumne County Department of Health
20111 Cedar Road N
Sonora, CA 533-7401
The Department operates between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. Applicants must appear in person because the Department must confirm their identity and take their photographs. The Tuolumne County Medical Marijuana Program (TCMMP) will approve an application once they establish that the medical information provided is accurate and ascertain the completeness of the application form and other documentation.
The cost of getting a medical marijuana card in Tuolumne County is a non-refundable $126 for regular applicants. MediCal and CMSP beneficiaries get a 50% reduction in fees and pay $63 as card processing fees. The TCMMP strives to make medical marijuana cards available within five business days of approval.
While commercial cannabis activities are prohibited in Tuolumne County, the City of Sonora allows certain cannabis businesses in some capacity. The city does not have data to ascertain the impact of cannabis on Tuolumne County's economy. Also, the cannabis taxable sales by county published by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) do not include Tuolumne County's data. Nevertheless, a scrutiny of cannabis taxable sales for other counties reveals a positive impact on their economies. Nothing less is expected of Tuolumne County.
Cannabis legalization has not significantly impacted the rate of DUI arrests in Tuolumne County. As seen in a 2018 report by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the county had 410 and 356 DUI arrests in 2014 and 2015, respectively. In 2016, the DUI arrests figure for the county declined to 308. The DMV 2020 report showed that law enforcement made 304 DUI arrests in 2017 and 335 in 2018. The DMV has yet to publish DUI arrest reports for 2019 and 2020.
According to a report by the California Department of Justice (DOJ), the number of drug-related offenses in Tuolumne County has been relatively low since the legalization of cannabis. In 2016, the county recorded 116 arrests for drug offenses, which declined to 100 in 2017. This figure further went down to 78 in 2018 but increased to 108 in 2019. However, in 2020, the number of drug-related arrests fell significantly to 43.