Local Cannabis Business Licenses in California


California has systems in place to govern the state’s legal cannabis industry. But a state license can only be issued if the appropriate city or county government approves your local cannabis business license. This makes local authorization a prerequisite to a state license and opening a marijuana business.

Based in San Diego, McElfresh Law has wide-ranging experience in preparing cannabis business applications for city and county approval. This includes land planning, addressing environmental concerns, and on-going compliance. Whatever stage you are at, and regardless if you are a prospective marijuana cultivator, distributor, manufacturer, or retailer, San Diego Marijuana business attorney Jessica McElfresh can put you in the best possible position for approval.

Attorney Jessica McElfresh has spent her entire professional career at the forefront of marijuana legalization and is a passionate advocate for cannabis entrepreneurs in California. To set up a consultation, call (858) 756-7107, or contact McElfresh Law online.

Local Cannabis Business Licenses in California

If you are interested in starting a medical or adult-use cannabis business in California, you will need various approvals. At the state level, three agencies govern licensure depending on your specific cannabis business. These are the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Department of Public Health.

However, before getting state approval, you will need a local permit in the city or county where you want to operate. This begins with completing an application packet. The exact process for securing local cannabis business licenses varies, and keep in mind that not every locality in California allows cannabis businesses to operate. Also, factors like the number of licenses issued, the timeframe for submitting applications, and the eligibility criteria will be up to local discretion. They can dictate regulations around production and distribution, if indoor or outdoor cultivation is permitted, and whether or not delivery services are allowed.

Many cities and counties in California also restrict cannabis businesses to specific “zones,” with buffering requirements, separating them from other “sensitive” areas. For instance, in Long Beach, CA, local medical or adult-use cannabis businesses cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school, a beach, or another dispensary, and 600 feet from a library, park, or daycare facility.

Getting Local Cannabis Permits Approved

There are hundreds of incorporated cities and 58 counties in California, each with their own rules for cannabis businesses, which can make thing complicated. Municipalities mainly focus on how a cannabis business will use the land. And, while every city approaches licensure differently, it will involve: vetting your application, reviewing your financials, verifying that the property meets the minimum square footage and parking guidelines, confirming it is in an acceptable area, and that all zoning, security, hiring, environmental, and energy provisions are met.

Generally, cities and counties in California follow one of three options for processing applications for local cannabis business licenses:

  • Traditional /Conditional Land Use – Most cities use a conditional land use approach for issuing local cannabis business permits. This means going through a public hearing. During which, residents can voice concerns and will usually involve an environmental assessment. A determination is made once the necessary conditions are met.
  • Point System – Some communities city officials award points based on the criteria your application meets. This is meant to give the most appealing businesses a better chance and allow cities to choose from viable options. While this system seems objective, in reality, the scoring is subjective and open to interpretation.
  • Lottery System– Other municipalities use a more impartial method for granting local marijuana business permits, where applications are randomly selected. Lotteries are often used when the total number of cannabis licenses are tightly regulated.

Any of these can seem daunting, and each has benefits and drawbacks. However, with careful planning and guidance, you can prepare your cannabis business application and ensure your proposal is seriously considered.

How a Lawyer Can Help

As part of your due diligence to starting a legal cannabis business, it’s wise to consult with knowledgeable consultants and legal professionals. This guidance can help you avoid administrative challenges, reduce your financial risk, and create a strategy for long-term success.

At McElfresh Law, we routinely assist marijuana cultivators, distributors, retail operators, manufacturers, testing labs, and cannabis investors with every aspect of planning and implementing their ventures. This includes obtaining local approval, the state process, and on-going legal representation.

We will start by helping you find a suitable location and developing your business plan. From there, we will work with the necessary consultants, engineers, and environmental experts to review site plans, compile the required financial documents, and any other materials that maximize your odds of approval.

Our legal services for cannabis business include:

  • Marijuana Business Planning & Incorporation
  • Financial Projections and Proof of Sustainability
  • Implementing California’s Track-and-Trace System and METRC
  • Selecting a Location, Zoning Compliance, and On-Site Planning
  • Environmental Impact & Land Use Issues
  • Renewable Energy & Cannabis Waste Management Requirements
  • Security Planning, Hiring Practices & Standard Operating Procedures
  • Application Process, Presentation, and License Defense

Local Cannabis Business Licenses: Compliance & Defense

While obtaining a local permit is a critical first step, various local and state agencies will continuously monitor your operation to ensure compliance. This includes renewing you permit every year, meeting conditions, and remaining in good standing. Violations can endanger your business, and there are hundreds of requirements to keep track of. But, with an effective compliance plan, you can make sure your business is prepared for inspections, audits, renewals, or any changes in the law.

Attorney Jessica McElfresh has been heavily involved in crafting the very local, state, and administrative policies that oversee these businesses. We can provide the all the support and guidance you need to ensure your credentials are in order and that your business is protected.

Start Your Local Cannabis Application. Call McElfresh Law

Sometimes, even the county administrators and city officials are misinformed or just wrong when it comes to local cannabis permit applications in California. You shouldn’t try to handle everything yourself and always trust experienced legal professionals. At McElfresh Law, we work hard to remain on the cutting edge of these issues, so our clients can concentrate on running and growing their businesses.

When you’re ready to start your legal cannabis business, let us help. To discuss your local or state cannabis license application, call McElfresh Law at (858) 756-7107 or contact us online.

Free consultation for criminal defense cases only. Cannabis business consultation requires a fee.