California Marijuana Cultivation License

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Does California Require Marijuana Growers to Obtain Cultivation License?

The California legislature passed the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) in June 2017, effectively legalizing the use of recreational marijuana in the state. MAUCRSA requires persons who want to grow and sell cannabis in California to obtain a cultivation license. Cannabis cultivators grow all the cannabis plants that are harvested, sold as flowers, and made into marijuana products in California. The cultivation process also includes planting seeds or clones, drying, harvesting, drying, curing, and trimming harvested cannabis plants.

Cannabis cultivation licensees are required to obtain a separate license for each location where commercial cannabis cultivation occurs. Licenses for cultivation are non-transferable and not assignable to another person or property.

Additionally, cultivation licensees are prohibited from moving commercially produced cannabis or cannabis products that have not been processed from their licensed premises. A licensed distributor must handle all transfers of cannabis and non-manufactured cannabis products from a permitted growing facility.

What Are the Different Types of Cultivation Licenses in California?

MAUCRSA outlines the various cannabis licenses that will be issued in California. One of such licenses is the cultivation license. The type of cannabis cultivation license issued to cultivators depends on the size of the canopy, that is, the area where mature plants will be cultivated, and what kind of production or lighting will be used.

Cultivation license types are:

  • Specialty cottage outdoor: Cultivators can grow up to 25 mature plants or up to 2,500 square feet of canopy
  • Specialty cottage indoor: Cultivators are allowed up to 500 square feet of canopy
  • Specialty cottage mixed-light tier 1 and 2: Cultivators are allowed up to 2,500 square feet of canopy
  • Specialty outdoor: Cultivators can grow up to 50 mature plants or up to 5,000 square feet of canopy
  • Specialty indoor: Cultivators are allowed between 501 and 5,000 square feet of canopy
  • Specialty mixed-light tier 1 and 2: Cultivators are allowed between 2,501 and 5,000 square feet of canopy
  • Small outdoor: Cultivators are allowed between 5,001 and 10,000 square feet of canopy
  • Small indoor: Cultivators are allowed between 5,001 and 10,000 square feet of canopy area
  • Small mixed-light tier 1 and 2: Cultivators are allowed between 5,001 and 10,000 square feet of canopy
  • Medium outdoor: Cultivators are allowed between 10,001 square feet and 1 acre of canopy
  • Medium indoor: Cultivators are allowed between 10,001 and 22,000 square feet of canopy
  • Medium mixed-light tier 1 and 2: Cultivators are allowed between 10,001 and 22,000 square feet of canopy
  • Large outdoor: Cultivators can grow cannabis with canopy sizes larger than 1 acre
  • Large indoor: Cultivators can grow cannabis in indoor spaces with canopy measuring over 22,000 square feet
  • Large mixed light: Cultivators can grow cannabis in mixed-light sites in canopy measuring over 22,000 square feet
  • Nursery: This license is for cultivators that only grow clones, immature plants, seeds, or other forms of cannabis used for propagation
  • Processor: This license is a cultivation license for growers only intending to undertake the drying, curing, and processing of cannabis

It should be noted that in California, outdoor licenses are only available to growers who cultivate cannabis outdoors without the use of artificial lighting or light deprivation methods on mature plants. Indoor permits are only available to growers that cultivate cannabis in a permanent building with at least 25 watts of artificial light per square foot. Mixed-light permits are issued to growers who produce cannabis in one of the following ways:

  • Hoop-house
  • Glasshouse
  • Greenhouse
  • Conservatory
  • Hothouse
  • Other similar structure

Mixed-light licenses also have two tiers based on the amount of artificial light used in the cultivation area:

  • Tier 1: Up to 6 watts per square foot of artificial light
  • Tier 2: 6 to 25 watts per square foot of artificial light

Who Can Grow Marijuana in California?

The California licensing committee prohibits individuals from obtaining a cannabis cultivation license who have been convicted of a felony-related drug crime, violent or serious felonies, a felony involving embezzlement or fraud, or have been sanctioned by local licensing authorities within the last three years.

Background checks are required for cannabis cultivation license applicants under SB 643, and the licensing authority has the authority to deny a license application if the applicant has been convicted of an offense that is significantly related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the application is made. Individuals with felony offenses on their criminal histories are likewise prohibited from working in a cannabis cultivation facility in California. Anyone under the age of 21 is not permitted to work in a cannabis cultivation facility.

The licensing authority will consider the following factors in deciding which offenses are substantially connected to the qualifications, responsibilities, or obligations of the company or profession for which the application is being made:

  • Conviction for a serious felony, as described in Penal Code Section 1192.7
  • A violent felony conviction, as described in Penal Code Section 667.5
  • A felony conviction for embezzlement, deception, or fraud.
  • A felony conviction for drug trafficking with enhancements according to Health and Safety Code sections 11370.4 or 11379.8.
  • A felony conviction for employing, hiring, or using a minor to transport, carry, sell, give away, prepare for sale, or peddle any controlled substance to a minor; or for selling, offering to sell, providing, intending to furnish, administering, or delivering any controlled substance to a minor.

How to Get a Marijuana Cultivation License in California

Completing an application for a cannabis cultivation license in California takes time, effort, organization, and planning. To begin, you must be aware of and adhere to local permitting processes and ordinances. Ordinances are laws enacted by cities and counties to impose additional requirements for the local community. They establish the hours, locations, and manner in which a business or a resident may do specific activities. An ordinance is only effective in the city or county in which it was enacted. While ordinances may be more precise than regulations or statutes, they cannot be used in opposition to them. Consult your municipal and county governments to determine whether they have approved any cannabis-related regulations.

Many California cities and counties have rules and permits for cannabis cultivation facilities. Some do not allow for cultivation facilities in their jurisdictions. Local ordinances may also be advantageous, particularly if you have been disproportionately affected by cannabis law enforcement. Some California counties and cities have passed equity laws to assist individuals who have been adversely impacted by the War on Drugs and to establish a more inclusive marketplace. Applicants who fall into this category may enjoy incentives such as:

  • Faster application processes
  • Assistance during the licensing process
  • Help with operating your business
  • Direct financial support

Equity ordinances approved by municipalities in California include:

You may contact your city or county office to learn about any equity program available for cannabis cultivation license applicants. Ensure that your cannabis establishment will be permitted in your proposed jurisdiction and complete any requirements before submitting a cultivation license application.

The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) has also set specific requirements for standard operating procedures for all cannabis establishments, including cannabis cultivation facilities in the state. Per the DCC requirements, applications for cultivation licenses must be completed and submitted online at the California Department of Cannabis Control website or by mailing a hard copy of the application to:

Department of Cannabis Control

P.O. Box 942872

Sacramento, CA 94271-2872

The DCC regulations information on:

  • What you must submit when completing an application for a license
  • Regulations governing the operation of a cannabis business
  • What may be made into a cannabis product and the ingredients that cannot be used
  • Requirements for packaging that prevents contamination and informs customers about what is included in the product package
  • Required tests that each product must pass before sales
  • Enforcement measures may be taken against a cannabis business for not complying with the DCC regulations.

The complete DCC regulations are available on the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) website. The regulations are subject to change over time. You can keep updated on rule changes by checking the DCC website frequently.

The DCC also provides resources to help applicants create the documents that will be required during the licensing process. For more information or inquiries on the resources and preparing the requisite documents, contact the DCC licensing team. These resources include:

To complete your application process online, visit the DCC licensing portal and create an account on the portal. Complete the required fields on the licensing system and upload any required documents. Ensure that you disclose all your business' owners and financial interest holders. The DCC licensing system allows you to save your progress as you go, so you do not have to complete the application process all in one sitting. Upon completing your application, sign and submit it.

After completing your license application, the portal will prompt you to pay the applicable license application fee. Note that the DCC will not process your application until you pay your application fee. If any of the sections of your application is incomplete, the DCC licensing team will contact you by email. You will be informed about what is required to be corrected or provided. You will also be given a deadline to submit the response. Responding with complete information as quickly as possible will help expedite your application processing by the DCC.

When your application is accepted, the DCC will send you an email with information on how to pay your licensing cost. The fee may be paid via a bank account, check, money order, or credit card through the licensing system. You may also pay in cash by making an appointment to visit the DCC office. Note that cash payments are not accepted without an appointment for security reasons. Your license will not be granted until the DCC receives payment for the licensing cost.

A cannabis cultivation license is only valid for one year. Upon the issuance of your license, you may download the license certificate from the licensing system. It is recommended that you post your license certificate near the entrance of your business.

How Much Do Marijuana Cultivation Licenses Cost in California?

Per Section 16101 of the DCC Regulations, the following are nonrefundable application fees and license fees for cannabis cultivation licenses in California:

Cultivation License Type Application Fee License Fee
Specialty cottage outdoor $135 $1,205
Specialty cottage indoor $205 $1,830
Specialty cottage mixed-light tier 1 $340 $3,035
Specialty cottage mixed light-tier 2 $580 $5,200
Specialty outdoor $270 $2,410
Specialty indoor $2,170 $19,540
Specialty mixed-light tier 1 $655 $5,900
Specialty mixed-light tier 2 $1,125 $10,120
Small outdoor $535 $4,820
Small indoor $3,935 $35,410
Small mixed-light tier 1 $1,310 $11,800
Small mixed-light tier 2 $2,250 $20,235
Medium outdoor $1,555 $13,990
Medium indoor $8,655 $77,905
Medium mixed-light tier 1 $2,885 $25,970
Medium mixed-light tier 2 $4,945 $44,517
Nursery $520 $4,685
Processor $1,040 $9,370
Type of Large Cultivation License Application Fee Base License Fee Fee for each additional 2,000 square feet
Large Outdoor $1,555 $13,990 $640
Large Indoor $8,655 $77,905 $7,080
Large Mixed-Light Tier 1 $2,885 $25,970 $2,360
Large Mixed-Light Tier 2 $4,945 $44,517 $4,040

Cannabis cultivation licenses in California are valid for 12 months from the date of issue. You may renew your license up to 60 days, but no later than the last working day before the license expires. For instance, if your cannabis cultivation license was granted on November 1st, you can begin the renewal process the following September 1st. The cost for renewing a cannabis cultivation license is the same as the initial license fee.

Can Licensed Marijuana Cultivators Hold Other Cannabis Licenses in California?

As a cannabis grower, you may hold several cultivation licenses. However, there are certain restrictions on holding multiple cannabis cultivation licenses. Cultivator licensees may also apply for certain manufacturer's licenses. California also allows large cultivator licensees to get manufacturer and retailer licenses but not distribution or microbusiness license. Similarly, a licensed cultivator in California is not eligible for a testing laboratory or distributor license.

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California Marijuana Cultivation License