CDFA’s Disaster Relief Information for Licensed Cannabis Cultivators in California

As California continues to deal with unprecedented fires, many cultivators are trying to find ways to not only save their grows but to keep their businesses afloat. The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (“CDFA”) CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing division just released an extremely helpful “Need to Know” question and answer set to help cultivators during what, for some, is an extremely scary and trying time. 

The question and answer set released by the CDFA helps cultivators know what to do if they are experiencing a disaster and need regulatory relief from the state. The big take away from the question and answer set is that the CDFA is here to work with cultivators that are experiencing emergent disaster conditions.

How CDFA Regulations Define a Disaster

According to Section 8207(f) of the CalCannabis regulations, a disaster is, generally, a condition of extreme peril to the safety of people and property within the state or a county, city and county, or city caused by conditions, such as air pollution, fire, flood, storm, tidal wave, epidemic, riot, drought, terrorism, sudden and severe energy shortage, plant or animal infestation or disease, Governor’s warning of an earthquake or volcanic prediction, or an earthquake, or similar public calamity, that the Governor has proclaimed a state of emergency, or a local governing body has proclaimed a local emergency in accordance with Government Code.

Filing a Disaster Relief Request via Email

In the event that a cultivator needs to file a disaster relief request (in order to be given permission not to comply with specific applicable regulations), the CDFA has made the process quite simple. Specifically, licensed cultivators that cannot comply with specific regulations because of the fires or another disaster should send an email to the general CalCannabis email address (calcannabis@cdfa.ca.gov) with the phrase “Disaster-Relief Request” in the subject line. The body of the email should contain the following information: 

  1. Business name(s);
  2. License number(s);
  3. Name of the Designated Responsible Party (DRP) and the DRP’s contact information;
  4. An explanation as to why you’re requesting disaster relief and a list of the specific regulations you need relief from; please include photographs, if available;
  5. How long you need the disaster-relief for; and
  6. If relief includes moving cannabis plants or products off the licensed premises, please see steps 1 through 4 in the question and answer set

Moving Cannabis Without Prior Approval

Obviously, most disasters don’t come with a ton of warning, so for some cultivators it may be impossible to request disaster relief before having to relocate plants or harvested cannabis to a safer location. So, what is a cultivator to do if it had to pick up its product and run before getting disaster relief approval from the State to do so? 

In the event a cultivator had to move its cannabis and/or nonmanufactured cannabis products to another location to prevent loss, theft, or degradation due to a disaster, such a move is allowed without prior approval from CDFA if the following requirements are also met:

  1. The cannabis and/or nonmanufactured cannabis products were moved to a secure location where access is restricted to the licensee and the licensee’s employees and contractors;
  2. Within 24 hours of moving the cannabis, the licensee notifies CDFA in writing that the cannabis has been moved and requests relief from complying with specific licensing requirements; this notice may be sent by email to calcannabis@cdfa.ca.gov;
    • a. This notice needs to include the following information: 
      • i. The licensed business name(s), license number(s), the name of the Designated Responsible Party (DRP) and the DRP’s contact information, and, if applicable, the location of the cannabis and/or cannabis products that have been moved. Additional information may be needed depending on each cultivator’s situation. 
  3. Upon request, the licensee allows CDFA staff to access and inspect the location where the cannabis has been moved; and
  4. Within 10 days of moving the cannabis, the licensee notifies CDFA in writing how long and why the temporary relief will be needed and specifies which licensing requirements relief is needed for; this more in-depth explanatory notice should include all the information requested in the Q&A above (see the bulleted list) and may be sent by email to calcannabis@cdfa.ca.gov with “Disaster-Relief Request” in the subject line.

For more information about how the CDFA is handling disaster relief requests and what cultivators can do to ensure their operations continue compliantly, please review the question and answer set provided by CDFA or contact the attorney’s at Rogoway Law Group for assistance.  For more information about disaster relief requests to the BCC or Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch, check out Attorney Alexandra Burk’s blog post from September 16, 2020

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