Will CEQA Be a Barrier to Cannabis Businesses?

by | Jan 9, 2023 | Cannabis Law, Environmental Law

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a special piece of state-specific legislation that helps manage the environmental impact of commercial projects. However, it is often used as a delaying tactic for some projects, which may soon be a problem for cannabis production businesses.

How Does CEQA Work?

CEQA’s role is to create some environmental protections at the initiation of a project by carefully reviewing each new development. The purpose of the review is to:

  • Identify environmental issues
  • Mitigate damage to the environment
  • Provide transparency to the public on the decision-making process

How Could CEQA Create Obstacles for Cannabis Businesses?

At its core, cannabis production relies on commercial farming enterprises. Commercial farms must meet a host of already stringent guidelines. The state closely monitors the following:

  • Water usage
  • Land development
  • Use of pesticides
  • Crops

Food producers are well-accustomed to dealing with these issues. However, the regulatory requirements can be more complex and confusing for cannabis producers, even before anyone files a CEQA lawsuit.

CEQA was originally passed in 1970 to protect the environment. But during the intervening years, the statute has often been used to challenge beneficial projects, prompting calls for reforms to this landmark law. Anyone with standing can file a CEQA lawsuit to review the environmental aspects of any project in California and stop development in its tracks during the assessment. Often this process can take years to complete.

What if CEQA is Used against You?

The most important first step you can take when faced with a CEQA lawsuit is to hire a legal team experienced in the intricacies of environmental law in California.