2015 Legislative Year

On Friday, September 11, 2015, state legislators in Sacramento made history by passing three bills to provide comprehensive regulations for medical cannabis.

The legislation, Senate Bill 643 and Assembly Bills 266 and 243, collectively knows as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) had widespread, bipartisan support. Compromise language was finalized and approved through discussions supported by the Governor’s Office. The basic foundation of this legislative package is that:  “no person shall engage in commercial cannabis activity without possessing both a state license and a local permit, license, or other authorization.” Together these bills: 

  • Provide for the licensure of commercial cannabis activity in California:
  • Provides environmental protections
  • Provides specific opportunities for small and specialty cultivators to be licensed
  • Create a multi-agency framework for licensing

AB 243 (Wood)

  • Requires the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the State Department of Public Health, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the State Water Resources Control Board to promulgate regulations or standards relating to medical marijuana and its cultivation.
  • Requires various state agencies to take specified actions to mitigate the impact that marijuana cultivation has on the environment.
  • Requires a state licensing authority to charge each licensee under the act a licensure and renewal fee.
  • Imposes fines and civil penalties for violations of the law

AB 266 (Bonta, Jones-Sawyer, Cooley, Lackey, Wood) 

  • Licenses and regulates commercial medical cannabis
  • establishes within the Department of Consumer Affairs the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, under the supervision and control of the Director of Consumer Affairs
  • Requires the Board of Equalization, in consultation with the Department of Food and Agriculture, to adopt a system for reporting the movement of commercial cannabis and cannabis products.
  • imposes certain fines and civil penalties for violations
  • Provides that actions of licensees with the relevant local permits, in accordance with the act and applicable local ordinances, are not offenses subject to arrest, prosecution, or other sanction under state law


SB 643 (McGuire)

  • standards for a physician and surgeon prescribing medical cannabis
  • require an applicant to furnish a full set of fingerprints for the purposes of conducting criminal history record checks.
  • creating a new crime (misdemeanor) for physicians and surgeons who violate the guidelines
  • Require the Governor appoint, subject to confirmation by the Senate, a chief of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation
  • require the Department of Consumer Affairs to have the sole authority to create, issue, renew, discipline, suspend, or revoke licenses
  • require the Department of Food and Agriculture to administer the provisions of the act relating to cultivation
  • require the State Department of Public Health to administer the provisions of the act related to manufacturing and testing of medical cannabis
  • authorize counties to impose a tax upon specified cannabis-related activity.
  • require an applicant for a state license pursuant to the act to provide a statement signed by the applicant under penalty of perjury
  • establishing duties relating to the environmental impact of cannabis and cannabis products.


According to the, Marijuana Policy Project: “Not all the provisions are ideal, but taken as whole, the legislation passed by California’s lawmakers is a thoughtful and reasonable approach to regulation.”



Timeline For Implementation

Summary: The timeline for licensure is of critical importance to business owners. The dates below all appear in the code. 

July 1, 2015

Deadline to qualify for vertical integration allowance. 

January 1, 2016

Deadline for compliance with local policy in order to receive priority processing for licensure 

March 1, 2016

Deadline for local government to choose to administer a permit program or prohibit cultivation. If this deadline is not met the state will become the sole licensing authority. 

January 1, 2018

Deadline for compliance with local policy to ensure no disruption to your business through the license application process.