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Cannabis businesses are still prohibited in parts of California

If you’re thinking about starting a cannabis business in California, it likely feels like the ideal state. Marijuana has been in use a lot longer in California than it has in some other states. After all, California has had legal medical marijuana for an extensive amount of time and now also offers legal recreational marijuana. Many other states have been catching up over the years, but California was near the front of this change.

What people often assume, then, is that cannabis businesses and dispensaries are legal anywhere in the state. Perhaps they’ve looked at a map of the United States to check where marijuana is allowed and where it is still prohibited. They’ve noted that places like California, Washington, Michigan and even Illinois all have legal marijuana and allow for grow operations, manufacturers and dispensaries. The assumption is that that means you can have cannabis businesses anywhere within these states. But is that true?

Local prohibitions

No, that is not how the law works. Recreational marijuana has been legalized by the state government, but counties and cities can still make these decisions on their own. Specific municipalities could prohibit cannabis businesses within the city limits, for instance, and they would not be in violation of state law.

This turns California into something of a patchwork, where 60% of the counties and cities still do not allow for retail cannabis businesses to be opened. That’s 324 counties and cities out of 539 within the state. In only 44% of these areas – 239 out of 539 –  at least one type of cannabis business is allowed to exist.

So, while California has been at the forefront of marijuana reform, it can still be very complicated to start a cannabis business. Be sure you know exactly what legal steps to take.