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The Business of Cannabis: Don’t Ignore Environmental Laws

California state agencies (including the Department of Public Health’s Office of Manufactured Cannabis Safety, the Bureau of Cannabis Control, and the Department of Food and Agriculture) are busy developing a broad range of regulations to implement the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA or Proposition 64) and the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA). Specifically in the environmental arena, numerous requirements have already been added to the existing volumes of environmental regulations in California. For example, environmental provisions incorporated into AUMA include:

  • Each licensing agency is required to implement protocols to ensure compliance with state laws and regulations related to “environmental impacts, natural resource protection, water quality, water supply, hazardous materials, and pesticide use.”
  • The Department of Pesticide Regulation, in consultation with the Department of Food and Agriculture, is required to develop regulations for the use of pesticides in cultivation and maximum tolerances for pesticides.
  • Each license issued by the Department of Food and Agriculture is required to include conditions requested by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to ensure the effects of water diversion and discharge associated with cultivation do not affect instream flows necessary for fish spawning, migration, and rearing, and that flows are maintained as necessary to protect fish, wildlife, their respective habitats, and water quality.
  • Section 26036 provides that “Nothing in this division shall be interpreted to supersede or limit state agencies from exercising their existing enforcement authority.

While most attention has been focused on the new requirements and regulations that will implement AUMA and MCRSA, private businesses and local agencies must not ignore existing environmental and natural resources regulations under both state and federal laws. Those regulations apply to the cannabis industry to the same extent that they apply to every other business in the state. Meyers Nave Principal Josh Bloom, Co-Chair of the Cannabis Law Practice, published an article in MG magazine that outlines the primary categories of existing regulations — including water resources, wildlife, land use, and pesticides — that must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Please click here to read his article about the applicability of each regulation and possible compliance strategy.