Trending Legislation: Cannabis & Zoning

States across the country are increasingly legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana growth, use, and sale. Municipalities are choosing whether to opt in or out of the state legalizations. For those who are in favor of following their state’s lead, either in full or on a restricted basis, zoning codes are an important tool for regulating the when, where, and how of cannabis-related businesses.

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Cannabiz is Big

Despite a global pandemic, slowing supply chains, increasing inflation and an ongoing effort to legalize marijuana at the federal level, the cannabis industry in America appears to be flourishing.

According to data from Marijuana Business Daily, cannabis sales hit $20 billion in 2020 and are on pace to top $26 billion in 2021. By 2025, it’s projected that sales will jump to $45.9 billion, possibly making the cannabis industry even larger than the craft beer industry.

Managing Marijuana Locally

While the cannabis industry is growing by leaps and bounds, there are a number of legislative hurdles a cannabis-related business has to maneuver over, starting at the federal level and on down to the state laws. Licensing and permitting is generally regulated at the state and federal levels. But it’s at the local level that the nitty-gritty of the operations is decided.

Local regulations ultimately determine where a cannabis business may operate and how. Since cannabis is a relatively new land use and not widely legalized until recently, there has not been an urgent need to define and regulate it in zoning ordinances – until now.

Zoning for Cannabis

By passing zoning conditions that cannabis land uses have to abide by, local governments are able to reduce the impact of such businesses on surrounding properties. Zoning conditions commonly legislated may include the following:

  • Buffering (i.e., setting a location distance from a school, daycare center, public park, church, or other specified use or building);
  • Density (limiting how many cannabis businesses may operate within a certain area);
  • Operational characteristics such as hours of operation or odor;
  • Storefront characteristics such as lighting, outward-facing displays, and signage

Additional land use regulations may include its purpose (commercial or industrial), the size of the structure (square footage), height of the structure, and number of rooms.

As the cannabis industry grows, it will be increasingly important for local governments to review their zoning and land use ordinances. It’s important to be prepared for the related businesses to ensure each community’s perspective on the issue is properly represented in its development regulations.

Useful examples from the eCode360® Library

If your community is interested in legislating to regulate cannabis businesses, here are some useful examples that can be found in our eCode360 Library:

Updating your municipal code is vitally important

As local governments continue to adjust and transform digitally to the ever-shifting needs of the COVID-19 era, keeping municipal codes updated has become more essential than ever. It’s important to sustain orderly and accessible knowledge of the most current regulations and resolutions in a timely manner.

We encourage our clients to submit code updates as soon as possible to make sure constituents and local government officials are always referencing and working with the most up-to-date resources. Clients can send legislation to [email protected].

Best practices for managing your codification budget

Many of our client communities find it helpful to be on a code update schedule to help manage their budgets throughout the year. Our Client Care Advocates can work with you and explain the options and benefits of scheduled code updates. Give them a call at 800.836.8834 or send an email to [email protected]. They’d be happy to help or answer any other codification questions you might have.


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