The practice of cremation has been revived in civilized communities in comparatively recent times, and it is advocated mainly on the ground that it is safer for the living, more sanitary, than ordinary burial in a cemetery. The practice has become general and crematories are now so common in many of the larger cities of the United States that the courts may take judicial notice of the usual method of operation[i].
In California, for example, according to Cal Health & Saf Code § 7010, “Cremation” means the process by which the following three steps are taken:
(a) The reduction of the body of a deceased human to its essential elements by incineration.
(b) The repositioning or moving of the body or remains during incineration to facilitate the process.
(c) The processing of the remains after removal from the cremation chamber
Cremated remains, which are not a health risk, may be buried or immured in memorial sites or cemeteries, or they may be legally retained by relatives or dispersed in a variety of ways and locations. Since a crematorium does not make “interments” within the meaning of a statute governing the cemetery business, it is not a cemetery corporation or association. Nevertheless, the regulation of crematories is within the police power of the municipality, and reasonable restrictions upon the operation thereof are valid.
In Abbey Land & Improv. Co. v. County of San Mateo, 167 Cal. 434 (Cal. 1914), the court held that “ a county ordinance which prohibits the establishment or maintenance in any one township of more than one crematory for the cremation of human bodies cannot be upheld as a police measure as against a cemetery association located near another crematory and in close proximity to several cemeteries and in a neighborhood where there are but few dwelling-houses and no buildings devoted to any business except that of burying the dead.”
[i] Abbey Land & Improv. Co. v. County of San Mateo, 167 Cal. 434, 439 (Cal. 1914)