For the Love of Safety: Are Cities’ Marijuana Laws Just a Cover for Obstruction?

Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California, gave local governments broad authority to regulate the manufacture, cultivation and sale of cannabis within their jurisdictions. So far, cities and counties have been more than happy to exercise that power. In municipalities across the state, onerous conditions have been imposed on growers and sellers hoping to get the green light. But is this really about safety, or is it just a clever way to stifle Proposition 64?

“This is overreach,” said one Fontana resident about a policy in his city that requires renters to get notarized authorization from their landlords before they grow weed, plus a permit that costs $411. “They don’t like Prop. 64, so they definitely want to restrict this as much as possible.”

In other cities like Galt and Elk Grove, it’s almost as if Proposition 64 never happened. They’ve banned all indoor growing under “urgency” moratoriums—a move that is already prompting lawsuits from residents and advocacy groups.

The courts will likely have the last say in all of this. But, for now, legal experts are offering a word of caution. While Proposition 64 gives great deference to the individual needs of cities and counties, policies that are so heavy-handed as to make it a “de facto” ban on cannabis are risking a legal smackdown. Whether they like it or not, the voters of this state have legalized recreational cannabis and municipalities must respect that.