Quick Reference Guide to California Cannabis Regulations, Rules, Laws & Licensing
In California, cannabis has undergone a thorough legalization process focused on both medical and recreational cannabis. To begin, California placed a distinct focus on the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), which was established through a series of bills between 2015 and 2016. These bills were passed in the California State Legislature, marking a significant point in California history.
Now, California is a key player in the cannabis industry and has a framework for licensing regulation and the enforcement of commercial cannabis activity. Throughout this guide, you will find useful information to pursue business licensing and understand the laws surrounding cannabis in California.
California established three cannabis licensing authorities: the Bureau of Cannabis Control, CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, and the Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch.
California Marijuana Businesses
In November of 2016, California voters made a groundbreaking statement with the passing of Proposition 64. Under this new proposition, adults of age 21 or older were given the right to legally grow, possess, and use cannabis for non-medicinal purposes. While Proposition 64 did come with some great liberties, it also came with certain restrictions to regulate the industry for everyone. Further benefits were offered with AUMA, which made it legal to sell and distribute cannabis through a regulated business in 2018.
In 2017, after the official legalization, California State Legislature passed a budget trailer bill in the form of Senate Bill 94. With this new bill, MCRSA and AUMA became integrated to create the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). Under this new act, a single regulatory system was introduced to govern the medical and recreational cannabis industry in California.
By 2018, the three approved cannabis licensing authorities began to use licenses for medicinal and recreational cannabis activities. This approved the cultivation, manufacturing, retail, distribution, and testing of cannabis. It also paved the way for micro-businesses, as well as temporary events in this space.
Licensed commercial cannabis businesses are now operating under new state cannabis regulations. These regulations have been approved by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and went into effect in 2019. As we look to the future, we can expect further regulation changes to help the cannabis industry to thrive.
California Cannabis Laws, Rules, and Regulations
As of January 2018, businesses given the go-ahead to begin work in the cannabis industry were able to do so through licenses issued by the Bureau of Cannabis Control, CDFA’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, and CDPH’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch.
Following this change, a growing list of businesses were able to join the newly legal cannabis market, which has continued to grow to this day. Now, more than 10,000 cannabis operators hold state licenses from a number of cities. These changes have created what is currently the largest cannabis market in the country.
To operate in this capacity, businesses need to have a state license before they can engage in any commercial brand activity. To receive their license, applicants must provide proof of approval, which can be obtained in their local jurisdiction. The approval must match the jurisdiction that the company is in. Since some local jurisdictions prohibit cannabis and associated activities, some licenses cannot be approved.
At the core of cannabis regulation for both medicinal and recreational use in California is the Medicinal and Adult-User Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). This provides the steps and framework for regulation.
As of January 2019, the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) has officially approved key regulations for the industry and associated supply chain. These regulations make it so licensees are required to follow certain rules and regulations in line with their business type. Additionally, companies must also follow other required state laws as well.
On the CA.gov California Cannabis Portal, you’ll find the following: “Applications for annual licenses will be accepted through an online licensing system – the Manufactured Cannabis Licensing System (MCLS). This application will require information on the business, owners and financial interest holders, and operating premises, as well as descriptions of procedures for waste disposal, inventory and quality control, transportation and security. Businesses in operation under the Compassionate Use Act prior to September 1, 2016, will receive priority application review.
Applicants must be in compliance with city or county ordinances. During the application review process, CDPH will contact the city or county to verify the local authorization. If the applicant does not provide a copy of their local authorization, the local office will have 60 days to respond. If the applicant includes a copy of their local authorization with their application, the local office will have 10 days to respond.”
California Cannabis Business License Applications
The state of California provides various forms and applications for those participating in the cannabis industry. These required documents can be found below.
The state’s three licensing authorities have issued over 10,000 commercial cannabis licenses to cannabis businesses throughout the state of California. The links below redirect to each licensing authority’s license system search. There you can search to see which businesses have been issued a state cannabis license by location, license type, and more.
To find valid cultivation and manufacturing licenses, please visit the CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing and the Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch’s search systems. For all other license types, (retail, distribution, microbusiness, testing laboratory, and temporary cannabis events), please use the Bureau of Cannabis Control’s license search.
From the CA.gov Bureau of Cannabis Control, “To renew a license, a licensee must submit an amendment for renewal. An amendment for renewal cannot be submitted to the Bureau earlier than 60 calendar days prior to the expiration of the license. The Bureau will send an automatic notification to a licensee prior to the expiration of their license with renewal instructions.
The Bureau strongly encourages licensees to submit their renewal amendments sooner rather than later. Please note, license renewal fees are not due until after our licensing staff have reviewed and approved the renewal.
To submit an amendment for renewal, please follow the steps below:
1. To submit an amendment for renewal, please follow the steps below:
2. Login with the account used to submit the original license application.
3. Go to “My Records.”
4. Find the license record that will be expiring and click on the “Renew License” link.
5. Complete the renewal amendment as prompted.
Your renewal submission will be reviewed by Bureau staff and you will be asked to provide documentation showing your gross revenue thus far for the current license period. Please include with your renewal any documentation demonstrating the licensee’s gross revenue for the current licensed period (the 12 months starting the date the license was issued), such as a copy of the licensee’s quarterly or yearly tax filings with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), a local jurisdiction, or with the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB). If you do not have tax return documents, you may also provide other documentation such as Profit and Loss (P&L) statements.”
License Modifications Forms
To submit an amendment for renewal, please follow the steps below:
If you’re interested in submitting a commercial cannabis licensing application to the Bureau, please fill out ALL the forms listed under the type of license you are applying for. You may also apply for a license through our Online Licensing System.