California hashish: retail is coming to Orange County

California’s Law Regulating and Safety of Cannabis for Medical and Adult Use (MAUCRSA) – the state’s general cannabis law – gives cities and counties greater latitude as to whether or not to allow commercial cannabis activities within their borders. Many local jurisdictions have decided to ban cannabis activities altogether or severely limit the types of activities and / or the number of businesses that can operate.

So far, virtually all cities in Orange County were on this list. Currently, Santa Ana is the only town in the entire county that has in-store retailers (Stanton’s licensing process began late last year), but the number of retailers there is limited and licensing has been closed for a while. Other cities within the county currently allow off-store retail (e.g. Costa Mesa, where there is very limited non-retail activity). Overall, consumers who want legal cannabis in Orange County must either leave the county or commute to Santa Ana.

That could change relatively soon, as a number of Orange County towns are in the process of licensing, or at least seriously considering, retail business licenses. Much of this started in the November election when voters in Costa Mesa, Laguna Woods, and La Habra approved cannabis retail measures. Also in 2020, Fullerton and Stanton approved retail operations (Statnton’s licensing process took place in 2020). Let’s take a closer look at some of these efforts, and where they stand:

  • Costa Mesa: The city is in the process of adopting an ordinance, but it is not ready yet and may need further elaboration. The hearings are scheduled for the end of this month. We may have more insight into Costa Mesa in the coming weeks and months.
  • Fullerton: It appears that on March 2, 2021, the city council passed an ordinance repealing an earlier ordinance that would have allowed cannabis companies in the city. So it looks like Fullerton isn’t making any headway for now.
  • La Habra: La Habra will allow up to 4 retail licenses with the application process expected to begin in a few months. This means this will be a seriously competitive licensing process and interested companies are likely to be starting to grapple with local laws and real estate.

It’s also worth noting that this shift toward retail cannabis is not consistent across the county. For example, in 2020 the Anaheim City Council narrowly rejected efforts to allow cannabis retailing. However, we assume that other cities in the county will continue to open up to licenses and that even cities like Anaheim will reconsider at some point after realizing the lack of tax revenue. Check out more cannabis updates for Orange County on the Canna Law Blog.

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