California Cannabis and CEQA Collide

California Cannabis and CEQA Collide
CANNANNEW REPORT

Assembly Bill (AB) 141 and Senate Bill (SB) 160, which passed in 2021, will bring an end to provisional cannabis licenses and change the requirements for renewing provisional licenses issued by California’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC). These changes have substantial implications for compliance with one of California’s most consequential environmental laws, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). With a few exceptions that are outlined in the below table, provisional license applications must be submitted by March 31, 2022, and provisional licenses will only be issued until June 30, 2022. This means that after June 30, 2022, a majority of cannabis businesses must obtain an annual license prior to commencing operations, which requires complete CEQA compliance. Complying with CEQA can be a time-consuming and convoluted process and is also used as a tool for litigious NIMBYs (Not-in-My-Back-Yard-ers) to challenge and delay projects. In certain regions, cannabis projects are controversial because of potential or perceived odor and traffic impacts. These bills also changed the criteria for renewing provisional licenses, which now involves showing more stringent progress toward complying with CEQA than was previously required for provisional licenses. In the past, an applicant only had to show evidence of CEQA compliance being “underway.” So whether applying for an annual license or renewing a provisional license, CEQA compliance will be important for all cannabis license holders as of July 1, 2022. Important Phase-Out Dates by License Type for Provisional Licenses Provisional License Type Last day to apply for a provisional license Last day provisional licenses are issued Last day provisional licenses can be renewed Last day provisional licenses can be in effect Cultivation licenses on contiguous premises that exceed one acre of total canopy for outdoor cultivation or 22,000 sq. ft. of total canopy for mixed-light or indoor cultivation. (Including local equity applicants.) Dec. 31, 2021 (CCR§15001.1.a.3.)…

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