Written by: Amie Alexander, JD/MPS Candidate, William H. Bowen School of Law

The California Growers Association filed suit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture on January 23, 2018. The California Growers Association (CGA), an organization whose purpose is to advance the interests of small farms and businesses, alleges that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (the Department) promulgated a regulatory loophole undermining the statutory five-year prohibition on large cultivators approved by California voters. You can find the complaint here.

California voters passed Proposition 64, the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” (AUMA) in November 2016. CGA specifically emphasized one of the express purposes of Proposition 64, which was to ensure the nonmedical marijuana industry in California would be built around small to medium sized business “by prohibiting large-scale cultivation licenses for the first five years.”  The Department was charged with promulgating regulations pursuant to the Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). The MAUCRSA set forth three types of cultivator licenses: small, medium, and large cultivators. Large cultivator licenses would allow a total canopy size exceeding one acre for outdoor cultivation, or exceeding 22,000 square feet for indoor cultivation.

Pursuant to AUMA and MAUCRSA, no large cultivator licenses were to be issued until January 1, 2023. To prevent individuals from aggregating medium-sized cultivator licenses for the purpose of operating a large cultivation before 2023, the regulations prohibited a license holder from holding more than one medium cultivator license before 2023. However, CGA claims that the Department’s failure to cap the total number of small cultivator licenses issued to a single person or business effectively violates the initial five-year prohibition of large cultivations.

CGA asks the Court to prohibit the Department from issuing further small cultivation licenses pursuant to the regulations in violation of the acreage cultivation cap provided by the applicable laws.