Cash crop
Cash crop
File photo by Brett Levin/Flickr

An Uncomplicated How-To Guide for Getting Your Legal Weed License

California will begin the cannabis licensing process on Jan. 1, and judging by the crowd that turned up at the state’s informational seminar last week in Exposition Park, there’s going to be a deluge of applications coming from Los Angeles alone. The state’s requirements are comprehensive and at times confusing, so L.A. Weekly has assembled a how-to guide for navigating the muddy waters of legal weed.

The following tips have been compiled from checklists and informational sheets from the Bureau of Cannabis Control, emailed interviews with the bureau's assistant chief of communications, Alex Traverso, and through online resources provided by various other state agencies that include the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Two things to note: First, all applicants will have to secure a local license or demonstrate local compliance in order to secure a California license. This means Angelenos will have to wait for the city of Los Angeles to release final regulations and begin issuing permits before moving on to seek a state application. You will need both to operate legally.

Secondly, because the state of California has not completed its final regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis businesses, applicants applying in the first few months of the new year will be applying for and receiving a temporary license. This is a conditional permit that allows businesses to operate for four months (with the possibility of extension) until the state has its final requirements in place.

Applications will be available to submit online or through the mail, and will require the following components:

The front of a very long line formed in Exposition Park last week to enter a state workshop that explained how to apply for a temporary cannabis license in California.EXPAND
The front of a very long line formed in Exposition Park last week to enter a state workshop that explained how to apply for a temporary cannabis license in California.
Hayley Fox

1. Permission from the local government: All applicants will have to show proof that their local municipality has approved them to operate as a commercial cannabis business before California gives them the go-ahead. Without a copy of your local license or permit, the application is dead in the water, so the first step is securing local authorization. For those in the city of Los Angeles, this means following the final regulations that are yet to be released.

2. Some basic information about the business: This includes the name — of the individual or business entity — that is requesting the license, and some basic background information. The applicant must provide a designated primary contact (including name and title) as well as address, phone number and email address. All owners of the business must also offer their names, addresses and email addresses, as well as the physical address of the proposed business location.

3. The type and class of license desired: While you may be gung-ho to enter the Green Rush, state and local laws require you to pick a lane on each application, opting for either an adult-use or medicinal license (designated as either an A-license or M-license). Applicants also must designate what type of license they’re applying for, so here’s the rundown:

Testing Laboratory: With the anticipated crush of legal cannabis product come the new year, testing laboratories will be in high demand. This license is required for any lab or facility that “offers or performs tests of cannabis goods.” These operations will also have to secure ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation (basic requirements for lab competence) in order to operate but may be able to receive a temporary license while they undergo this process.

Distributor: The link between cultivators and retailers, distributors transport cannabis, arrange for product testing and, ultimately, ensure that all final weed products fulfill state-mandated requirements for packaging and labeling.

Distributor Transport: While these licensees are prohibited from delivering product to retailers, they are approved to transport cannabis and cannabis products between cultivators, manufacturers and distributors.

Retailer: These applicants must have a physical commercial space for their business to operate out of, such as a dispensary. Business owners may sell weed directly out of this location or via delivery, which will be legal under state law.

Retailer (non-storefront): This is basically a delivery license, which allows a retailer to sell and deliver cannabis products to paying customers. These licensees must also operate a commercial premise (likely, where products are stored and office operations take place), but this space is not open to the public.

Microbusiness: For applicants looking to vertically integrate on a small scale, this is the license for you. A microbusiness is permitted to grow, manufacture, distribute and sell cannabis products — or any combination of the four — under this one license type. There are some limitations however, including the requirement that cultivation sites be less than 10,000 square feet, and the licensee may only engage in non-volatile manufacturing (meaning not using any mixtures that could lead to an explosion).

4. A basic floor plan or layout of the business: Applicants must submit a basic diagram of the proposed business’s layout (such as where room divisions are) but won’t be required to provide details such as security information until the permanent application is submitted.

These requirements are the streamlined version of what's necessary for the permanent state cannabis licenses. For more information on those, visit the bureau's website and click through to your desired license type.

While the Bureau of Cannabis Control oversees the aforementioned license types, applicants seeking a manufacturing license will have to go through the California Department of Public Health’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch. This agency has not yet released temporary license requirements.

For Cultivation, applicants will be processed through the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing division. This agency has published requirements for temporary licenses online and asks that applicants provide the following information:
-proof of local authorization
- name (either personal or business) of the applicant requesting a license
- category of license requested (Medicinal or Adult-Use)
- type of cultivation license desired (there are multiple types distinguished by size, location and other factors)
- contact information
- physical address of the grow site

The cannabis licensing division also has published a helpful checklist to prepare applicants for both the temporary and permanent licensing process. Tips include making copies of your property title or lease agreement, providing verification of your water source and getting fingerprinting done through the California Department of Justice’s Live Scan service.

All three state agencies are expected to begin issuing licenses on Jan. 1.

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