Steinfeld, Amy M.

Leader in cannabis cultivation projects and co-chair of Cannabis & Industrial Hemp industry group. Works at the intersection of land use and water law. Santa Barbara office managing partner.

Amy Steinfeld is a land use and water lawyer with a broad understanding of environmental issues and a passion for the cannabis industry. Operating in one of the most heavily regulated industries and states, her passion and genuine concern for her clients is critical to her success. Drawing on a substantial network and ability to work closely with state agencies and local governments to anticipate decision-makers’ viewpoints, she efficiently moves even the most contentious projects forward and reduces permitting delays. Amy has worked on cannabis-related issues in California since the passage of Proposition 64. She supports greenhouse and outdoor sun-grown cannabis and hemp cultivators on the Central Coast through the permitting and licensing process to ensure compliance with California’s complex land use, zoning, environmental and water laws. 

Her combination of water law and land use experience allows Amy to operate at the apex of the industry. She advises water districts, cities, agricultural interests and developers in all aspects of water law. Accomplished in all facets of land development, from site due diligence, to the preparation of environmental documents to the defense and settlement of complicated multi-party CEQA lawsuits, Amy is recognized for her experience in water supply strategy, local policies, and public outreach. 

Amy is co-founder and co-chair of the California H2O Women Conference, which provides an opportunity to collaborate, educate and support women leaders in the water industry.

Representative Matters
  • Brownstein is assisting Cadiz, Inc. and Glass House Farms joint venture SoCal Hemp Co. in spearheading a pilot research program MOU to cultivate organic, sun-grown industrial hemp for both natural hemp and hemp-derived products including CBD. With Brownstein’s counsel, the project is potentially able to expand from its current operations to cultivate on up to 9,600 acres at the Cadiz Ranch in San Bernardino County, which would make it the largest vertically integrated, commercial hemp operation in the state of California.

  • Secured a ruling in the Sacramento Superior Court that validated the eleven year-old Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement and related agreements and secured a key component of long-term reliable water supply for San Diego County. Brownstein team's knowledge and experience of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) played a major role in the victory of this litigation.

  • On behalf of a national homebuilder, Brownstein obtained approval of the Water Supply Assessment, final Environmental Impact Report, General Plan Amendments and Specific Plan for development of a 1,500 acre-property in Southern California proposed to include 5,400 residential units and commercial uses.

  • Brownstein attorneys won a broad reversal of the trial court's judgment in the complex, coordinated Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) cases. The trial-court judgment invalidated twelve of the historic QSA-related agreements, but as a result of this appellate decision, the largest agriculture-to-urban water transfers in United States history, and numerous Colorado River programs that have been created by the United States and other Colorado River Basin states based on the QSA, will continue to be implemented while the remaining issues are decided on remand by the trial court.

  • Represented seller of Sacramento River water rights to the 2009 Drought Water Bank, including negotiation of water transfer agreement, acquisition of regulatory approvals and defense against environmental litigation. This water transfer was based on water conservation and groundwater substitution.

  • Trial counsel for one of California’s largest shareholder-owned public water suppliers in complex litigation to adjudicate and control the water resources in the Santa Maria groundwater basin. The case involved more than 1,000 parties who rely on local water resources and two federally-owned reservoirs. After eight years of litigation, the case was resolved through a settlement stipulation among the vast majority of the parties, thereby providing legal certainty with respect to the use and management of the resource.

  • Water rights counsel for a national land developer/home builder with respect to the water supply components of a proposed 5,000 home residential and commercial development in southern California. The project raised numerous water supply and water quality issues, including groundwater storage, replenishment and development, water transfers, conjunctive use, water re-use, flood protection and stormwater management.

  • Brownstein successfully negotiated a complex, multi-agency settlement of a water rights complaint alleging violations of the public trust and California Fish and Game Code section 5937, on behalf of one of California's largest wholesale water providers. The settlement provides a perpetual, multimillion-dollar program for the re-operation of numerous dams and associated water supply facilities on three watersheds, including flow enhancements, barrier removals and habitat restoration. Brownstein continues to provide legal support associated with obtaining all regulatory approvals of the settlement and its implementation.

  • Ongoing representation of multiple buyers and sellers of water rights in the Sacramento River system for negotiation and implementation of water transfers.

  • Representing developer for large multi-family real estate project in Napa County, California related to water supply and utility issues, including use of groundwater, water transfers, conjunctive use, and water reuse and recycling.

  • Advised a major California city on reorganization of its water, wastewater and solid waste utilities, including evaluation of dependent and independent special district, privatization and public-private partnership options and financing. Legal services were provided in conjunction with financial consultants to advise the city on developing an option to meet its short and long term financial goals and commitments.

  • Lead Counsel, Lake Arrowhead Enforcement Hearing, State Water Resources Control Board (November 2005) representing the Arrowhead Lake Association.

  • Counsel to a cannabis cultivator in challenging a County Ordinance which threatened to limit hoop house usage in key cultivation areas. Hoop houses, or temporary greenhouses, are essential tools for California Central Coast agriculture which yield resource savings as well as extend the growing season. Along with industry colleagues, Brownstein’s efforts helped deliver a compromise which exempts most hoops on actively cultivated land from prohibitive land use and building codes.

  • Successfully defended cannabis cultivator against appeal of an approved County land use permit for outdoor cannabis cultivation. Ultimately, the project secured a unanimous approval from the Planning Commission and the County Board of Supervisors for a 22-acre outdoor cannabis farm, one of the largest operational, fully-permitted cannabis farms in California. Defending against the appeal required successful demonstration that cannabis farms can co-exist with traditional farms, including vineyards and tasting rooms and educating the public and decision makers on the environmental and economic benefits of sustainable, sun grown cannabis farming.

News & Events

ACWA Legal Affairs Committee, 2018-2019

Board of Directors, Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition

Board of Advisors, California Water Law & Policy Reporter

Secretary, Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County, 2008-2013 

Photo Editor, Santa Barbara Lawyer Magazine Editorial Board, 2007

Guest Lecturer, Global Studies, “Social and Environmental Compliance,” Santa Barbara City College

Publications & Presentations
  • J.D., 2005, with honors, University of Colorado Law School
  • B.A., 2000, cum laude, University of California, Los Angeles
  • California, 2005
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

Best Lawyers in America, 2021

Pacific Coast Business Times, Most Influential People in the Region, 2020

Pacific Coast Business Times, Who's Who in Energy and Environment, 2018

Water & Wastes Digest, Young Water Professionals Award, 2017

Pacific Coast Business Times, Top 50 Women in Business & Editor's Choice, 2017

Pacific Coast Business Times, Who's Who in Professional Services, 2016

Pacific Coast Business Times, 40 Under 40, 2013

Contributing Editor, Association of California Water Agencies' Summary of Appellate Cases Decided by the Court, 2008-2010

Lead Articles Editor, Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, University of Colorado School of Law, 2004-2005

President, Environmental Law Society, University of Colorado School of Law, 2003-2004


International Cannabis Bar Association

Santa Barbara Women Lawyers

Santa Barbara County Bar Association