For some time now, California has been known as the pioneer of progress in the United States.  The liberal capital of America has made landslide legislative and constitutional moves for decades including the legalization of cannabis for recreational use in November 2016’s general election. Before California Counties Stance on Recreational Cannabisthis past election cycle, California already had a reputation as a pot-friendly state.  In 1975, cannabis possession was decriminalized, and in 1996, it became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use.

So it may come as a surprise that while the use of cannabis among adults aged 21 and over is legal statewide, the industry is in some way banned by 53 of the state’s 58 counties.

That’s right—only five counties have approved of the cultivation, manufacture, and retail of cannabis products

Despite what the voters and legislature have worked for, some counties and cities—particularly those in Southern California—remain frustratingly apprehensive of the adoption of cannabis regulations.

Calaveras County, for example, has long been home to cannabis cultivation sites.  But since the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, the county’s Board of Supervisors may change that due to an influx of outsiders, growers, and environmental concerns. For this conservative, struggling community, those changes are scary.  If Calaveras goes through with a total cultivation ban, several hundred farms will be forced to shut down and the county will lose out on much-needed tax revenue.

Los Angeles is another county arduously pushing back on cannabis regulation

It is the most populated county in the United States, setting it up to make a killing on tax revenue.  However, it has banned all cannabis business outside of incorporated cities (those that have pursued cannabis regulation despite the county’s ban), and it has played no games in enforcing those bans.

These counties are not without reason.  The regulations governing this experiment of an industry will likely need revision. The presence of legal cannabis gardens may make it easier for illegal growers to hide in plain sight. Some residents are concerned that cannabis stores would give children unnecessary exposure to the substance and increase the likelihood of underage consumption.  And of course, no matter how progressive California may be, it is home to prohibitionists—people who sincerely believe that cannabis is a dangerous substance, with little medical efficacy and a connection to the opioid epidemic.

California has been projected to amass billions of dollars in tax revenue for its cannabis licensing and sales.  These predictions, however, did not include the massive wave of resistance the industry is facing in the Golden State. Nineteen of the state’s counties have totally banned cannabis business within their limits, and 32 have banned one or more of the three industry areas.  Unless these counties ease up on cannabis prohibition, the state will be making much less than anticipated.  Who are the people losing out because of that?  Communities that could benefit from tax revenue and those whom it would severely inconvenience to have to travel across county lines to access a substance the voters chose to legalize.

California County Breakdown

In counties with legal cannabis, there are three primary plant-touching fields: cultivation, manufacturing, and retail. Cultivators grow the plant, manufacturers produce, prepare, and/or package cannabis products, and retailers sell cannabis products directly to customers from their storefront locations. Since the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, California counties have chosen to approve or ban the operation of one or more of these fields. This list is up to date as of October 12, 2017 per CannaBusiness Law’s reporting.

All Approved Counties

In each of these five counties, the operation of cultivation, manufacturing, and retail businesses have been approved.

1.     Humboldt

2.     Monterey

3.     Santa Cruz

4.     San Francisco

5.     Sonoma

County Manufacturing Ban

In each of the following five counties, cultivation and retail are approved, but manufacturing has been banned.

1.     Siskiyou

2.     Lake

3.     Marin

4.     San Mateo

5.     Tulare

Counties with Two Bans

Two of the plant-touching industry areas have been banned in the following 25 counties.  The one that has been approved is shown here.

1.     Alameda: retail approved

2.     Butte: cultivation approved

3.     Del Norte: cultivation approved

4.     El Dorado: cultivation approved

5.     Inyo: cultivation approved

6.     Kern: retail approved

7.     Lassen County: cultivation approved

8.     Imperial: cultivation approved

9.     Madera: cultivation approved

10.  Mariposa: cultivation approved

11.  Merced: cultivation approved

12.  Mono: cultivation approved

13.  Napa: cultivation approved

14.  Nevada: cultivation approvedCalifornia Counties Stance on Recreational Cannabis

15.  Orange: cultivation approved

16.  Sacramento: cultivation approved

17.  San Benito: cultivation approved

18.  San Diego: cultivation approved

19.  Santa Clara: cultivation approved

20.  Shasta: cultivation approved

21.  Sierra: cultivation approved

22.  Solano: cultivation approved

23.  Sutter: cultivation approved

24.  Trinity: cultivation approved

25.  Yolo: cultivation approved

County Wide All Cannabis Ban

It’s safe to call the following counties “anti pot.” None of the cannabis industry areas are approved here, which means that residents must travel across county lines to purchase legal weed.

1.     Alpine

2.     Amador

3.     Colusa

4.     Contra Costa

5.     Fresno

6.     Glenn

7.     Kings

8.     Los Angeles

9.     Modoc

10.  Placer

11.  Riverside

12.  San Bernardino

13.  San Joaquin

14.  Santa Barbara

15.  Stanislaus

16.  Tehama

17.  Tuolumne

18.  Ventura

19.  Yuba

Pending a Final Decision

In the following four counties, one of the areas is still pending approval.

1.     Mendocino: cultivation and retail approved, manufacturing pending

2.     Plumas: cultivation pending, manufacturing, and retail banned

3.     Calaveras: cultivation and manufacturing pending, retail approved

4.     San Luis Obispo: retail approved, cultivation pending, manufacturing banned

Incorporated Cities

As reported by CannaBusiness Law, the following cities have moved forward with their own cannabis policies distinct from their counties’ regulations.

1.     Adelanto, San Bernardino County

2.     Aracata. Humboldt County

3.     Berkeley, Alameda County

4.     Clearlake, Lake County

5.     Davis, Yolo County

6.     Desert Hot Springs, Riverside County

7.     Grover Beach, San Luis Obispo County

8.     Hanford, Kings County

9.     Long Beach, Los Angeles County

10.  Los Angeles, Los Angeles County

California Counties Stance on Recreational Cannabis11.  Oakland, Alameda County

12.  Richmond, Contra Costa County

13.  Sacramento, Sacramento County

14.  Salinas, Monterey County

15.  San Diego, San Diego County

16.  San Francisco, San Francisco County

17.  San Jose, Santa Clara County

18.  Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County

19.  Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County

20.  Santa Rosa, Sonoma County

Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.