Talking Points for City Councils and Boards of Supervisors Regarding the MMRSA

There is a legitimate need for local access to medical cannabis in California communities. 

  1. Many Californians already use medical cannabis, and most report relief from a serious medical condition. Research shows that more than 1.4 million Californians have used medical cannabis already, and 92% of those report significant relief from a serious medical condition. The most commonly treated conditions include chronic pain, arthritis, migraines, and cancer – conditions for which conventional treatments are often unavailable or ineffective. Furthermore, research shows that cannabis is used by a population that is diverse in age, race, gender, and other factors [“Prevalence of medical marijuana use in California, 2012,” Drug and Alcohol Review (2014)].  Given that so many Californians are already using medical cannabis to treat serious conditions, it is certain that legal patients who live, work, and shop in your community have a need for safe and legal access already.
  2. Mounting scientific evidence confirms that cannabis and cannabis products are safe and effective. 
    • The University of California established the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) in 2001 to conduct scientific studies to ascertain the general medical safety and efficacy of cannabis products and examine alternative forms of cannabis administration. In 2010, the CMCR issued a report on the fourteen clinical studies it has conducted, most of which were FDA-approved, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies that have demonstrated that cannabis can control pain, in some cases better than the available alternatives (Grant I, et al. 2010. Report to the Legislature and Governor of the State of California. Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research).
    • The Institute of Medicine released the largest review of research on medical cannabis in its 1999 report Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. The report found medical benefits for treating cancer and other conditions, noted that cannabis was uniquely effective for some patients, and called for more research. Read the report at
    • See for additional information about clinical research related to medical cannabis and specific conditions.

Recommendation: License and regulate medical cannabis at the local level like other legitimate medicines. Lawmakers must remember that it is inappropriate to regulate legitimate medicines as they do vices, including alcohol and tobacco.


Bans on individual patient and primary caregiver cultivation are harmful and unnecessary. 

  1. Bans on individual patient and primary caregiver cultivation are harmful to patients. Many patients who legally use medical cannabis cultivate their own medicine at home or in another safe and discrete place. Some designate a Primary Caregiver to help with cultivation, in accordance with California Health and Safety Code 11362.7. Personal, non-commercial cultivation of cannabis can be less expensive for patients than purchasing it. It may also be the only way to consistently obtain a specific variety of medicine that is useful for treating an individual patient’s condition.
  2. Bans push legal patients into the illicit market. Patients who cannot grow their own medicine may turn to the illicit market for relief, especially in areas where commercial medical cannabis cultivation and dispensing are not permitted. Patients face unnecessary legal, personal, and safety risks in the illicit market. Eliminating those risks for patients was a primary motive for adopting medical cannabis laws in California.
  3. Bans on personal cultivation are not required under the MMRSA. The new state law does not forbid individual patients and their designated primary caregivers from cultivating medical cannabis for the personal use of the patient. In fact, the MMRSA specifically exempts individual patients and primary caregivers from licensing and regulation requirements. Some cities and counties have banned commercial medical cannabis cultivation in hopes of maintaining control over licensing cultivation under the MMRSA, as discussed in greater detail below. However, there is no requirement or deadline for local government to ban, license, or regulate the personal cultivation of patients and caregivers. The issues of commercial and personal medical cannabis cultivation can and should be handled separately.
  4. Personal cultivation is not usually associated with criminal or nuisance activity. Some cities and counties have banned commercial cultivation and dispensing of medical cannabis based on an unfounded belief that this activity increases crime (see more below). However, it is important to remember that there is no evidence that the personal cultivation of legal medical cannabis is associated with increased criminal nuisance activity.

Recommendation:  Allow medical cannabis patients and primary caregivers to cultivate medicine for the personal use of the patient. ASA’s model ordinance for regulating commercial medical cannabis cultivation exempts patients and primary caregivers from local licensing regulation and does not interfere with their right to cultivate for personal use under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Proposition 215).


Bans on commercial medical cannabis cultivation are harmful and unnecessary. 

  1. Banning commercial cultivation leaves the majority of legal patients without safe and legal access. Most legal patients rely on dispensaries for safe and legal access to medical cannabis. The MMRSA anticipates that licensed commercial cultivators will supply licensed dispensaries with medical cannabis. However, cultivators and dispensaries must have a local license, permit, or approval to operate. That means local bans on commercial cultivation could choke off access to dispensaries servicing legal patients.
  2. Cities and counties are empowered to regulate commercial medical cannabis cultivation under the MMRSA. One of the goals of the new legislation is to give the green light for local licensing and regulation. The MMRSA should give clear legal guidance and approval to local lawmakers who were previously ambivalent about local licensing. Cities and counties can now be certain that licensed medical cannabis businesses and organizations are operating within the bounds of state law.
  3. There is no urgency to enact an ordinances licensing commercial medical cannabis cultivation before the March 1, 2016.  As noted above, the inclusion of a deadline for adopting local cultivation regulations was included in AB 243 inadvertently. The current language in Section 11362.777 (c)(4) in AB 243, which includes the drafting error identified by Assembly Member Wood in the Assembly Journal, gives the BMMR authority to license medical cannabis cultivation in cities and counties that have not addressed commercial cultivation before March 1, 2016. While the delaine is likely to be removed from AB 243, cities and counties can adopt simple business licensing ordinances like ASA’s model ordinance for commercial medical cannabis activity before March 1, 2016. 
  4. Cities and counties can use existing business license and zoning laws to license commercial medical cannabis activity. Most jurisdictions already have adequate business license, zoning, and other land use laws that can be used for medical cannabis. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
  5. Cities and counties do not have to develop complex regulatory schemes for commercial medical cannabis licensing. The BMMR will be doing that. The BMMR and other state agencies will begin writing comprehensive regulations in January of 2018. All state laws and regulations will be applicable to medical cannabis businesses and organizations licensed, permitted, or approved under local laws.
  6. Unlike illicit cultivation, licensed and regulated commercial medical cannabis cultivation can be easily monitored and policed. Licensed commercial medical cannabis cultivators operate in the open. That makes the job of regulators and law enforcement much easier. Cities and counties can expect greater transparency from licensed cultivators in areas like security, zoning, and environmental impacts.
  7. Licensed commercial medical cannabis cultivation can create jobs, generate tax revenue, and have other economic benefits for the community. Researchers from The ArcView Group, a cannabis industry investment and research firm based in Oakland, California, found that the U.S. market for legal cannabis grew 74 percent in 2014 to $2.7 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2013. According to the Washington Post, the cannabis industry will be worth $35 billion by 2020 – bigger than the National Football League and on par with the newspaper industry. That means jobs and tax revenue for local governments that take advantage of the new state licensing to authorize legal medical cannabis organizations and businesses.

Recommendation: License and regulate commercial medical cannabis cultivation instead of banning it. ASA’s model ordinance for commercial medical cannabis cultivation is a simple way to preserve local authority and secure the benefits of sensible licensing and regulation for patients, the community at large, and law enforcement.