Licenses to cultivate marijuana plants in California are handled by the Department of Food & Agriculture, which offers the CalCannabis program. Licenses to retail, distribute, or test marijuana products are handled by Bureau of Cannabis Control. Licenses to manufacture marijuana-infused products are handled by the Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch, a part of the Department of Public Health.
Temporary license applications are now available from all divisions.
License to Cultivate Marijuana in California
Prospective cultivators in California can now apply for a temporary license lasting 120 days and extendable by 90 days. The more permanent annual applications will become available at a later date.
Applicants must specify if they will be growing marijuana for medical or recreational use. A cultivation business is permitted to grow, harvest, cure, grade and trim plant material.
The application can be submitted online at the CalCannabis website or sent by mail to the CalCannabis office.
After receiving a license, applicants must attend a track-and-trace training session and implement an inventory tracking system.
Types of licenses
There is a wide range of highly specific license classifications, totaling 11 unique license types.
The ‘specialty’ designation refers to the size of the area in which the cultivator operates. ‘Mixed-light’ refers to plants that are cultivated with a combination of natural and artificial light, typically done in a greenhouse, hoop-house, or other structure that allows light in. Tier 1 refers to operations that use up to 6 watts of energy per sq. ft., while Tier 2 operations may use up to 25 watts per sq. ft.
Specialty Cottage – Indoor cultivation with up to 25 mature plants or Outdoor cultivation with up to 500 sq. ft in total canopy
Specialty Cottage Mixed-Light Tier 1, Tier 2 – Indoor cultivation with up to 2,500 sq. ft in total canopy
Specialty Outdoor/Indoor – Indoor cultivation up to 5,000 sq. ft, Outdoor cultivation up to 5,000 sq. ft or 50 mature plants
Specialty Mixed-Light Tier 1, Tier 2 – Indoor cultivation with up to 5,000 sq. ft. in total canopy
Small Outdoor/Indoor – Can cultivate an area up to 10,000 sq. ft of total canopy
Small Mixed-Light Tier 1, Tier 2 – Can cultivate an area up to 10,000 sq. ft. of total canopy
Medium Outdoor/Indoor – Outdoor operations can cultivate up to 1 acre (43,560 sq. ft.) of total canopy. Indoor operations can cultivate up to 22,000 sq. ft.
Medium Mixed-Light Tier 1, Tier 2 – Up to 22,000 sq. ft. total canopy area can be cultivated
Nursery – Cultivates cannabis only as a nursery, ie. for the sale of immature plants to other licensed cultivators
Processor – An operation that only trims, dries, cures, grades, packages and/or labels cannabis products
- Proof of legal right to occupy the permitted property
- Proof of permission to operate from the local jurisdiction
- Business documents that were filed with the California Secretary of State and unique business EIN if applicable
- Assessor Parcel Number assigned by the local tax assessor
- Proof of water permits and water source verification
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife 1602 permit or waiver
- Record search by the California Department of Toxic Substances
- Seller’s permit from the California Department of Fee and Tax Administration
- $5,000 surety bond
- Labor peace agreement if over 20 employees
- Fingerprinting by the California Department of Justice
There are currently no application fees for temporary licenses.
License for Manufacturing Marijuana Products in California
Temporary licenses that last 120 days are now available from the California Department of Public Health. Extensions of 90 days are also available.
The application can be submitted by email attachment or by mail.
Types of licenses
Two main types of licenses are offered: Medicinal or Adult-Use (aka ‘Recreational’)
An applicant must designate the specific products the business will manufacture, choosing from this list:
- Vape Cartridges
The following manufacturing activities must also be designated:
And finally, the following extraction methods must be designated:
- Butane, Hexane, Propane
- Water or Food-Grade Dry Ice
- Food-grade Butter or Oil
- Permit from the local jurisdiction allowing the manufacturing activities being licensed
- Business Employer Identification Number (EIN) if applicable
There is no fee for temporary licenses at this time
License for Retail, Distribution, or Testing of Marijuana in California
The Bureau of Cannabis Control is now issuing temporary licenses lasting 120 days to eligible businesses. There are two main types of licenses, A-license for adult-use cannabis (aka ‘Recreational’) and M-license for medicinal cannabis. Businesses holding one license can only do business with others holding the same license. Testing laboratories do not have this restriction.
Within the two main A and M licenses there are 7 license types:
Retailer (Physical Store) – A location where marijuana products are sold to customers, or by delivery.
Retailer (Delivery) – A business that only delivers marijuana products to customers. It has a physical location but does not conduct public commerce there.
Distributor – Transports, arranges for testing, and reviews quality assurance of packaging and labelling requirements for marijuana products.
Distributor Transport – Transports marijuana products between cultivators, manufacturers and distributors. Does not transport to retailers.
Testing Laboratory – A facility that has obtained ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation and provides testing of marijuana products for concentration, contaminants and moisture content
A marijuana business that carries out any 3 of the following activities:
- Cultivation (in an area less than 10,000 square feet)
- Manufacturing (packaging, labeling, non-volatile extraction or infusion)
- Retail sales
The microbusiness must conform with cultivation regulations set by the Department of Food and Agriculture and manufacturing regulations set by the Department of Public Health.
Temporary Cannabis Event – An event lasting up to 4 days where marijuana products are sold or consumed
- Before applying for an event license a Cannabis Event Organizer License must be obtained
- Sales have to be conducted by an already licensed retail business
- Access must be restricted to those 21 years of age or older
- Alcohol and tobacco consumption is not permitted
- There must be security
- Local jurisdiction laws must be followed
- Business formation documents filed with the Secretary of State
- The business’ federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) if applicable
- Complete financial information on your business and sources of funding
- A seller’s permit number from the California Department of Fee and Tax Administration
- A labor peace agreement if you have 20 or more employees
- Diagram of the premises and floor plan
- Operating procedures for transportation, inventory, quality control and security. If you are applying as a microbusiness you also need operating procedures for cultivation and manufacturing. If you are applying as a testing laboratory you also need sampling standards, chain of custody protocol, testing methods, quality assurance and quality control and ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation
- Identification, fingerprints and criminal history of all individual owners
- Proof of legal right to occupy the permitted premises and verification that it is not within 600 feet of a K-12 school, day care center or youth center unless the local jurisdiction specifies a different distance
- A $5,000 bond payable to the state of California
- Proof of authorization from the local jurisdiction where the premises are located
- Distributors and micro businesses that engage in distribution must have a minimum of $2 million in total Commercial General Liability Insurance and a minimum of $1 million in insurance for individual losses
- Diagram of the premises being licensed
There is no application fee for temporary licenses at this time
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel