San Francisco County Cannabis Overview

  1. California Cannabis
  2. San Francisco County Cannabis

Is Cannabis Cultivation Legal in San Francisco County?

San Francisco County permits the cultivation of cannabis for commercial purposes, provided the grower holds a cannabis cultivation facility permit. The Office of Cannabis issues this permit under Article 16 of the Police Code. It authorizes the permittee to engage in the commercial cultivation and processing of medical cannabis and adult-use cannabis. Note that only preexisting cannabis businesses, equity applicants, and equity incubators can apply for a permit from the Office of Cannabis. In addition to the cannabis cultivation facility permit, the permittee must also hold an A-license or M-license. Both licenses are issued under the California Business and Professions Code. The A-license authorizes commercial activities involving cannabis or cannabis products intended only for adults over 21 years old, who do not possess a physician's recommendation. On the other hand, the M-license is issued strictly for commercial cannabis activities involving medicinal cannabis.

For commercial cannabis cultivation, the following requirements must be fulfilled:

  • A cannabis cultivation facility is only authorized to engage in indoor cannabis cultivation. San Francisco County does not permit outdoor cannabis cultivation. According to the Cannabis Cultivation Regulations of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, indoor cultivation involves cultivating cannabis within a permanent structure using exclusively artificial light. Indoor cultivation is also done within any type of structure using artificial light at a rate exceeding 25 watts per square foot.
  • The cultivation site to be used as a cannabis cultivation facility must not be more than 22,000 square feet of total canopy. The size of the canopy shall be calculated on a square foot basis, which shall include any vertical growth space, such as shelving.
  • A cannabis cultivation facility is required to have weighing and measuring tools used in connection with selling or distributing cannabis that meets state standards.
  • All cannabis cultivation activities must not be visible from the public right-of-way.

California's Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) and Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) permits adults to grow no more than six cannabis plants for private and non-commercial use. Similarly, the San Francisco County Office of Cannabis authorizes persons over the age of 21 to cultivate, harvest, dry, and process a maximum of six cannabis plants privately in their homes. Cannabis can also be grown on the grounds of their private residence if the property owner consents to this. However, the growing area must be locked, enclosed, and not be visible to the public. Persons with a Medical Marijuana ID card may grow more than the specified amount, up to 12 cannabis plants for their own use.

Is Cannabis Manufacturing Legal in San Francisco County?

It is legal to manufacture cannabis in San Francisco County, only if the manufacturer possesses a cannabis manufacturing facility permit obtained from the San Francisco County Office of Cannabis. The permittee is also required to possess both an A-licensee and an M-licensee. A cannabis manufacturing facility is required to comply with the following operating standards set forth by Section 1618 of Ordinance No. 230-17:

  • A cannabis manufacturing facility is not allowed to manufacture products that do not contain cannabis; it may only manufacture cannabis products.
  • A cannabis manufacturing facility may extract cannabis oil in accordance with any restrictions imposed by the planning department, planning code, or the planning commission.
  • A cannabis manufacturing facility may use volatile solvents only if the operator possesses a state cannabis license authorizing their use.
  • A cannabis manufacturing facility using volatile solvents (or manufacturing cannabis products) must operate cautiously to curtail the risk of danger or explosion to public health. This may be by using a close-loop or solvent dispersion system in consent with the requirements of California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.775.
  • A cannabis manufacturing facility may not manufacture or sell edible cannabis products that are not in compliance with the requirements of Sections 26130 and 26131 of the California Health and Safety Business and Professions Code.

Is Cannabis Retail Legal in San Francisco County?

San Francisco County allows medical cannabis dispensaries to operate within the county, provided they possess a valid medical cannabis dispensary permit pursuant to Article 33 of the Health Code. Adults over age 21 can buy up to one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. However, to buy medical cannabis, a patient will need to obtain a medical marijuana ID card or a doctor's recommendation. Patients who have a medical marijuana ID card do not pay sales tax when they buy cannabis with the card. Medical marijuana patients may buy up to 8 ounces of flower or more, depending on the doctor's recommendation. The various cannabis products that may be purchased at dispensaries in San Francisco include cannabis flowers, seeds, whole plants, edibles, concentrates, cloves, prerolls, topicals, patches, etc.

San Francisco County offers a medicinal cannabis retailer permit, which authorizes the permittee to sell only medicinal cannabis and medicinal cannabis products. The county also provides a cannabis retailer permit. With this permit, an individual can engage in the retail sale of adult-use and medicinal cannabis and cannabis products. Despite the county's retail sale permit, an entity looking to start a dispensary will need to obtain the California state license authorizing cannabis retail sale. Cannabis retailers can obtain either a storefront cannabis retailer permit or a delivery-only retailer permit. A storefront cannabis retailer permit does not license the permittee to deliver cannabis or cannabis products to customers unless the director of the Office of Cannabis authorizes this. Other operating requirements specified for a storefront cannabis retailer to comply with according to Section 1624 of Ordinance No. 230-17 include:

  • A storefront cannabis retailer must operate from a fixed place of business and not out of a bus, car, truck, van, or any other mobile location or location that can be mobilized.
  • A storefront cannabis retailer must post staff at the entry point of the Premises to ensure that only customers up to 21 years old enter.
  • A storefront cannabis retailer must provide to each customer during the sale, a fact sheet on safe consumption of cannabis and cannabis products. The Department of Public Health produces this fact sheet.
  • A storefront cannabis retailer shall not employ or have any contract with any physician who recommends medical cannabis or any third party that employs physicians who recommend medicinal cannabis.
  • A storefront cannabis retailer permitted to sell medicinal cannabis must not sell more than 8 ounces of medicinal cannabis or 12 immature cannabis plants to one customer in the same business day. However, this may be permitted if the customer provides a physician's recommendation requiring a greater amount.
  • A storefront cannabis retailer may not:
  • Allow customers on the premises during closing hour;
  • Store cannabis or cannabis products in any location other than on the authorized premises;
  • Sell or give away pressurized containers of butane or other materials that could be used in the home production of cannabis extract.
  • Sell cannabis or cannabis products via a drive-up window.
  • A storefront cannabis retailer may accept returns of cannabis and cannabis products previously sold by the storefront cannabis business. However, it must not resell them. A storefront cannabis retailer shall consider any cannabis and cannabis products abandoned on the premises as a return and shall destroy them.
  • A storefront cannabis retailer must possess and use an electronic age verification device to determine the age of a person who wants to make a purchase. The device shall be maintained in an operational condition, and all employees shall be trained on how to use it. If the electronic age verification device malfunctions, cannabis products shall not be sold to any customer.

The operating standards listed above are applicable to sales of cannabis and cannabis products made onsite and via delivery.

Is Cannabis Delivery Legal in San Francisco County?

San Francisco County issues a delivery-only cannabis retailer permit that authorizes the permittee to deliver and sell medicinal and recreational cannabis and cannabis products. This permit authorizes cannabis delivery to residential addresses at a real property such as an apartment unit or house, but not to a street corner, location within a park, or any other nonspecific address. These deliveries may only be conducted by employees of the authorized cannabis business. The business is not allowed to engage the services of independent deliveries services. Deliveries can only be made in authorized quantities to individuals aged 21 or over with valid IDs such as a California driver's license during the cannabis business' operation hours. However, the primary caregiver must provide proof that the patient for whom they received the delivery qualifies to use medicinal cannabis under California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.7 et seq. Cannabis delivery is also approved for persons with medical marijuana ID cards in San Francisco County. A delivery-only cannabis retailer must provide their delivery personnel with an electronic age verification device to determine the age of a person that placed the order.

How to Get Medical Marijuana Card in San Francisco County

The San Francisco Department of Public Health makes medical marijuana identification cards available to persons who qualify to use medical marijuana under California Health & Safety Code Section 11362.5. The card is also available to persons who qualify as primary caregivers. However, the primary caregiver must present proof to the Department that a physician recommends medical marijuana for the patient for whom they provide primary care. When a patient is applying for a medical marijuana identification card, they shall present proof that their physician recommends cannabis for their use. An applicant for a medical marijuana identification card must be willing to provide any other information or documentation the department requires to determine whether they qualify to use medical marijuana.

Qualified patients and caregivers may apply to get their medical cannabis user identification cards at:

San Francisco Department of Public Health

101 Grove Street, Room 105

San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: (628) 206 5555

Operating hours are between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

The steps involved in applying for a medical marijuana ID card are:

  1. Complete an Application Renewal Form - DHS 9042. This form can also be obtained at the physical address of the department.
  2. Provide a completed Written Documentation of the Patient's Medical Records - CDPH 9044 (preferred) or an original letter from your physician detailing that you have a serious medical condition that can be treated with medical marijuana. Note that the CDPH 9044 form or original letter from your physician will expire one year after the date they are signed. The department will reject an application with an expired CDPH 9044 form or an expired physician's letter.
  3. Provide proof of identity such as a California state identification card, California driver's license, or the United States passport.
  4. Show proof that you reside in San Francisco, such as a current photo ID with a San Francisco address, a recent utility b or a mortgage payment receipt, or a recent rental.
  5. Pay a $100 fee. Medi-Cal beneficiaries shall instead pay $50, provided they present their Medi-Cal card).

Note that if you wish to designate a primary caregiver to complete the applicable section of the Application Renewal Form - CDPH 9042, your caregiver must accompany you during the application for the card. The application fee for a caregiver is the same as the patient fee.

California regulations require that counties issue medical marijuana ID cards within 30 days of completing a valid application, but in most cases, the cards will be issued within ten business days.

How Has Cannabis Legalization Impacted the Economy of San Francisco County?

The Cannabis Sales by County report put together by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration indicates the financial impact cannabis legalization has on San Francisco County. In 2018, after cannabis legalization, San Francisco County generated a total taxable sales of $177,236,509. The financial impact further increased massively in 2019, as the total taxable sales was $248,816,303. In 2020, the total taxable sales slightly fell to 248,532,687. The reason for the decline in taxable sales was not recorded, but above all, the legalization of cannabis in San Francisco County has positively impacted the finances of the county.

Did Legalizing Cannabis Affect Crime Rate in San Francisco County?

The crime report generated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from the San Francisco County Highway Patrol shows the impact of cannabis legalization in San Francisco County in terms of the crime rate. In 2018, the San Francisco County Highway Patrol recorded 585 DUIs, three marijuana possession offenses, and one marijuana sale/manufacturing offense. In 2019, the number of DUIs the San Francisco County Highway Patrol recorded was 624 DUIs, but there were no arrests for marijuana drug possession and sale/manufacturing. In 2020, the crime rate of DUIs dropped, as 471 offenses were reported. There were only two arrests for marijuana possession offenses, but no arrest was recorded for marijuana sale/manufacturing offenses. The crime data indicates an inconsistent rise in the crime rate in San Francisco County after cannabis legalization, although the crime rate fell in 2020.

San Francisco County Cannabis Overview