As we covered in previous posts, finding properly-zoned real estate is one of the most important - and difficult - parts of starting a cannabis business in California. The real estate market in California is competitive already, and so-called “green zone” regulations severely restrict where cannabis businesses are allowed to operate.
Nevertheless, it’s imperative that you find real estate for your business before the city or county application window opens. Competition is simply too fierce to wait until the city announces they are ready to start approving business applications. Plan ahead to find cannabis-ready property with this quick guide on California’s cannabis zoning laws.
California’s Cannabis Zoning Laws
California state regulation SB94 allows the 482 cities and 58 counties in California to regulate land use and zoning in relation to cannabis within their jurisdictions. What this means is that cannabis zoning laws not only vary by location, but also by the type of business activity. For example, cannabis dispensaries will abide by different cannabis zoning laws than cultivators or manufacturers. Note that cities or counties with no legal cannabis activity will not provide zoning information related to cannabis businesses.
As far as growing cannabis, it can be tricky to discern regulations by city and state. Research shows that a slight majority of cities have banned outdoor cannabis gardens, while others have specific home-grow permits that may relate to smaller cannabis businesses as well.
To find a specific zoning law in your area, the Orange County Register has compiled a database of cannabis zoning laws by city and county (last updated June, 2018).
Common Cannabis Zoning Laws
Each city and county customizes their cannabis zoning laws. However, there are a few commonalities that our experts tend to see in many zoning policies. If you’re seeking property, here are some things to keep in mind:
Green zone regulations may not be announced if a city hasn’t opened their cannabis business applications yet. Regardless, it’s important to stay informed about the city’s ordinances and available commercial property. When the applications do open, be prepared by contacting California Cannabis CPAs and asking how we can help.
Recently, our experts led a webinar outlining everything you need to know to get your Los Angeles cannabis business license. If you missed it, you can listen to the full webinar on-demand. We covered many topics, including Los Angeles’ cannabis social equity program.
Los Angeles’ cannabis social equity program is a part of the city’s commercial cannabis licensing system. The goal is to give a boost to past victims of cannabis criminalization by offering assistance and benefits to any communities that were unfairly punished by the drug war. Read on for more information on how this program works and how your cannabis business might be able to participate in the program.
What is Los Angeles’ Cannabis Social Equity Program?
LA’s social equity program has the stated goal of promoting “equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry in order to decrease disparities in life outcomes for marginalized communities and to address the disproportionate impacts of the war on drugs in those communities.”
The program intends to offer assistance in the form of funding, physical space, and a separate licensing timeline to any commercial cannabis licensees who meet the program criteria. Some of the program benefits as of July 2018 include:
As you can tell from some of the notes next to the listed benefits, the city is still developing the specific benefits of the cannabis social equity program.
Who qualifies for Los Angeles’ Cannabis Social Equity Program?
There are three tiers qualifications under which a prospective cannabis business owner might qualify for the social equity program.
Please note that to be eligible for the benefits of the social equity program, you must own at least one third (and for Tier 1, 51%) of the business applying for the license.
Even if you do not fall under one of the three tiers, you can qualify for the social equity program. To do so, you can either pay a fee to the city fund or agreeing to provide a small portion of your physical space to help the beneficiaries of the program.
How can I apply for Los Angeles’ Cannabis Social Equity Program?
If you recall from our webinar, Los Angeles is issuing cannabis business licenses in three phases. Phase 2 of the cannabis licensing program started on August 1 and will remain open for 30 days. During this phase, applicants must qualify under the social equity program.
You can currently apply for a Phase 2 license on the Los Angeles City cannabis page. Read this primer for instructions on how to log in to your account and submit an application. Our experts are standing by to help out if you have any questions.
For more information on getting your cannabis business license in Los Angeles, check out our webinar or read our three-part guide on cannabis in Los Angeles:
If you have specific questions related to your business, please get in touch with our experts today.
As the saying goes, there are two things certain in life: death and taxes. An addendum to this saying might be that taxes never seem to decrease over our lifetime. However, these three California cities have chosen to reduce cannabis taxes in their jurisdiction. Let’s take a look at these three cities and the rates at which they’ve reduced taxes.
Berkeley recently hired HdL Companies to audit and review current taxes for cannabis regulations. These services have resulted in a reduction of cannabis taxes within Berkeley. Medicinal sales tax was 5% and is now 2.5%. In addition, adult-use cannabis sales tax was 10% and is now 5%.
Salinas is the largest municipality of Monterey County, California. This city just reduced cannabis nursery tax rates from $15/square foot of canopy space to $2/square foot. If you’re taking the first steps toward starting a cannabis company, this might be a great jurisdiction for you to consider.
Grover Beach is a city located in San Luis Obispo County, California. The city recently reduced several taxes related to cannabis, including the cultivation tax from $25 per square foot to $5 per square foot. Manufacturing and distribution taxes have been reduced from 5% of gross receipts to 3%. All taxes for adult-use and medical cannabis remain the same.
Although Coalinga has not officially reduced any of its taxes, the city is looking into the idea of reducing cultivation taxes. The current cultivation tax costs all cannabis businesses at $25.00 per square foot for the first 3,000 square feet. It drops to $10 per square foot after that. We will see what Coalinga decides to do in terms of reducing cultivation taxes.
These three cities have reduced cannabis taxes, and depending on the long-term economic growth benefits, it’s likely that other districts could follow suit. We will keep you updated as we see additional cities make changes to their cannabis taxes.
Interested in opening a cannabis business of your own within one of these California cities? Contact California Cannabis CPAs today.
On June 27, 2017, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) passed and provided a framework for cannabis activity and sales within California. In June of 2018, cannabis licensing authorities enacted emergency regulations ensuring a set of rules were in place for the continuance of MAUCRSA.
Now, California’s cannabis licensing authorities are proposing permanent rules to take the place of the emergency regulations. California’s three state cannabis licensing authorities will further define these rules. They are:
The emergency regulations that went into effect June 6, 2018 will stay in place for 180 days. During this 6-month time period, the three cannabis licensing authorities will adopt non-emergency regulations.
The respective authorities also want to hear from the people about your thoughts, concerns and suggestions. Each of the three agencies will hold multiple public hearings in order to do so.
California Cannabis Public Hearings
Each of the three cannabis licensing authorities will hold public hearings so the people of California comment and share their input on the future laws. These can be submitted by attending the public hearings and sharing your comments orally, or submitting them to in writing. Instructions for how to submit comments in writing are listed below.
California Department of Public Health Hearing Dates
The CDPH is holding the following hearing dates:
If you would like to see on how to submit a public comment in writing please click here.
Bureau of Cannabis Control Hearing Dates
The Bureau of Cannabis Control provides information about legal, safe and responsible cannabis use. Of course, you can find information – including fact sheets, FAQs, and more – on their website. Their hearing dates are scheduled as follows:
If you would like to know how to submit a public comment in writing please click here.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Hearing Dates
The CDFA protects California’s food supply with regulatory oversight over management, innovation and science, with a commitment to environmental stewardship. Their public hearings are scheduled for:
If you would like to know how to submit a public comment in writing please click here.
The cannabis licensing authorities are hoping to respond to and review each comment. They have all stated they will respond to relevant comments in a timely fashion. They only way a public comment will not be accepted is by phone.
Attending one of the hearings or submitting written comments is a great way to get your voice heard! California is one of the most progressive states when it comes to marijuana legislation, and is paving the way for future cannabis laws throughout the country. California will likely set precedent and this is your chance to be a part of it. If you have any interest in opening a cannabis business now or in the near future, become involved at the local level where possible or attend one of the above hearings. Your voice makes a difference!
If you have questions about specifics regarding any of the above authorities, or would like further clarification on how to obtain a cannabis license in California, contact California Cannabis CPA today.
Breaking California Cannabis News: Updates from Long Beach, Antioch, and Contra Costa and El Dorado Counties!
This week’s California cannabis updates come to you from Long Beach, Antioch, and the counties of Contra Costa and El Dorado.
Have a question about licensing in one of the cities we discussed today? Contact Green Growth CPAs.
The world of commercial cannabis applications is ever changing. Each California city takes it upon themselves to decide why, when and what form of commercial cannabis business they will allow into their jurisdiction. Some cities have hard application deadlines, while others see it as an opportunity to bring in additional revenue and accept applications on an ongoing basis. Palm Springs is one of these cities.
Palm Springs is a California city with a mere 50,000 people but covers almost 100 square miles, making it the 10th largest California city by land area. Palm Springs adopted ordinances in late 2017 that allowed for commercial cannabis activities, and now they are accepting applications with no end date in site.
Palm Springs Cannabis Licenses
Palm Springs is accepting applications for the following cannabis business activities:
The city approves of both medicinal & adult-use cannabis.
Submit a Palm Springs Cannabis Application
Palm Springs does a nice job of organizing the application process and detailing the steps in one complete PDF document. You can find that document here.
Within the PDF document, you will find each of the following documents that are required for submitting an application. Everything must be completed in order for your application to be fully evaluated. This includes:
The initial filing fee covers the costs of all background checks and fingerprinting. The city will not issue refunds.
Palm Springs is not specific about how many licenses they will issue within each category, but as Green Growth CPA is alerted of further details we will be sure to update this article.
Palm Springs isn’t the only California city accepting commercial cannabis applications on an ongoing basis. We will be continuing a series of articles that detail cities with open application deadlines, so stay tuned.
Can we help you get started on your application? Give us a shout and ask how we can help.
Just this month, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) approved the re-adoption of emergency regulations for cannabis manufacturers for an additional 180 days. What does this mean, and how does it impact your cannabis business?
What are California’s cannabis emergency regulations?
Just a quick refresher: the emergency regulations cover the policy known as MAUCRSA, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. These regulations outline California’s standards and licensing requirements for commercial cannabis manufacturers. They were originally passed in December 2017, and as is the standard for “emergency regulations,” valid for a period of 180 days. They were renewed for another 180 days just recently – with a few key changes.
What are the changes to California’s re-adopted emergency regulations?
The biggest change is the removal of restrictions created by the adult use (“A”) and medicinal (“M”) license designations. Originally, MAUCRSA regulations required cannabis plants be designated for either the A or M market at the cultivation stage. Plan material and cannabis products resulting from cultivation had to maintain that A or M designation while moving through the supply chain – complicating logistics and operations for cannabis businesses across the market.
In the newly re-adopted cannabis emergency regulations, the CDPH is attempting to resolve some of the A and M confusion. They have removed restrictions of A and M license designations, meaning businesses can complete one license application for use in both the adult-use and medicinal markets. Starting June 6, 2018, cannabis and cannabis products will only be labeled as adult-use or medicinal at the time of retail sale (with one exception for higher-THC products that are only allowed in the medicinal market).
To review the re-adopted emergency regulations in detail, click this link.
What does that mean for cannabis cultivators?
There are a couple scenarios where you might have questions, especially if you’re still waiting to hear about your cannabis cultivation license. If you submitted two applications, one for an A license and one for an M license, here are a few points of clarification:
If you have any specific questions about the MAUCRSA emergency regulations or any of these changes, please get in touch with the experts at California Cannabis CPA.
Post-Election Cannabis Updates from Pasadena, Licenses in San Rafael, South Lake Tahoe, and Deadlines in San Bernardino!
This week: cannabis licensing updates from the California cities of San Rafael, South Lake Tahoe and Pasadena. In addition, San Bernardino’s application deadline is quickly approaching!
The process will be merit-based and all applications will be reviewed by city staff. In addition, if you are a new business you must meet the following requirements.
San Rafael has released a separate page making it easy to verify correct zones and permit fees. Have additional questions about San Rafael? Send us a message and we will happily provide further details.
Further details are expected soon and California Cannabis CPA will be sure to keep you updated as application details are announced.
Don’t forget: applications for San Bernardino close in two weeks! Applications must be submitted by June 25 to be considered for cultivation, manufacturing, retail, microbusiness and distribution opportunities.
Looking to submit an application for one of these cities, or perhaps a specific license type? We have a database of cities that have open and quickly approaching application deadlines. Contact us today.
In case you missed it, Tuesday was primary day across California, where the first-round bid for governor became one of the most watched races in the country. As a refresher: under California law, the top two primary finishers go on to the general election, regardless of party. In a field of 27 candidates, Gavin Newsom (D) and John Cox (R) took the top two spots according to the New York Times. They will go on to the general election in November.
Where do these two candidates stand on cannabis? Based on what they’ve said publicly, we have some indication on what kind of cannabis policies Newsom and Cox might enact if elected governor of California. Please note that we are not here to debate politics or endorse either candidate, and are simply reporting their stances on cannabis – a small part of each candidate’s platform and beliefs. Here’s where each candidate stands on the growing California cannabis industry.
Gavin Newsom, Democrat
Newsom is the current Lieutenant Governor of California and previously served as the mayor of San Francisco for two terms. He’s been one of the leading politicians to advocate for the legalization of cannabis In 2014, Newsom was the only statewide politician to endorse California Proposition 47, a bill that decriminalized drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Then, he became the face of the pro-cannabis Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy. This report’s recommendations led to Proposition 64 and the full legalization of cannabis in 2018.
Where does he stand on improving the regulatory and operating environment for cannabis businesses? Newsom is on the record for wanting to tackle the cannabis black market and trying to move businesses into “the sunshine of a regulated environment.” Based on his track record and response to Sean Spicer and the administration, one could reasonably expect he would continue to evolve California’s cannabis regulations in a way that makes it possible for businesses to operate legally, responsibly, and securely.
John Cox, Republican
Cox has a business background, and previously ran for the United States Senate in Illinois. His net worth is in the billions due to his past work as a lawyer, specifically in tax and corporate law and in estate planning. He also worked as the chief financial officer of the snack foods company Jay Foods.
As a self-purported “Reagan Republican,” Cox has said he is against cannabis legalization for adult use. In a California gubernatorial debate on May 8, he seemed to suggest that cannabis consumers should be treated in hospitals for substance abuse. In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, he clarified, “I’m suggesting that people who are addicted to substances, substance abuse, should get treated, they should not be incarcerated.” Cox went on to add that cannabis users may be at risk for later using harder drugs, and should be put into a treatment facility. He supports medical cannabis.
Cox has been endorsed by Donald Trump, suggesting that if elected, he might follow the administration’s stance on cannabis.
In summary: it seems that each candidate presents two very different paths forward for the California cannabis industry. Questions about statewide cannabis regulations? Our experts can help with all your business or tax concerns. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
This month has been a big month for lowering the risk of operating a cannabis business in California. First, the state moved toward creating a banking system for cannabis companies. Now, the California Insurance Commissioner has approved a program to allow dispensaries, storage facilities, processors, distributors, and other cannabis businesses to procure property and liability coverage.
The program, Cannabis Business Owners Policy (CannaBOP), will make it easier for insurers to enter the market and fill coverage gaps for cannabis businesses. Developed by the American Association of Insurance Services (AAIS), CannaBOP was approved quickly and is ready to offer a package policy that includes both liability and property coverage. The program is supported by rules and loss costs (as with any insurance policy package) and was developed through analysis of market exposures and rating guidelines specific to the cannabis industry.
This announcement has been building since January, 2018 when cannabis became legal state-wide. A cannabis surety bond program was launched in February, and coverage for commercial landlords renting to cannabis companies was announced in May. Before this month’s announcement, cannabis companies were limited for choice: nearly all insurers willing to offer coverage were small carries that were not regulated by the state and often hesitant to provide coverage to a perceived high-risk industry.
Should you get cannabis property insurance? The answer depends on your unique cannabis business. CannaBOP is designed for smaller cannabis operations and for start-ups that need coverage but haven’t been able to find it – until now. For cultivators working with pesticides and quality control issues, this type of insurance is a great way to protect your business from product liability lawsuits.
Keep in mind, however, that CannaBOP relates specifically to property and liability insurance – and it does not include workers comp coverage or auto insurance. For that coverage, you might look to those smaller, non-regulated insurance companies who have been providing interim property coverage until this announcement.
If you have additional questions about insurance or protecting your cannabis business, please reach out to our team! We’d be happy to help.
Cannabis Updates from Jurupa Valley, San Rafael, and Goleta. PLUS: Cultivation Application Deadlines!
This week, we have updates from the cities of Jurupa Valley, San Rafael and Goleta. Also, we share a few cities that are accepting applications on an ongoing basis for cannabis cultivation licenses.
In addition, these cities are accepting cannabis cultivation applications on an ongoing basis. While some cities may decide to have hard application deadlines, these cities keep their acceptance windows open ended (for now) for cultivation licenses:
California Cannabis CPA has helped many cannabis businesses with the initial research that goes into finding the right city for your business. Need some assistance with a particular license? Ask how we can help.
One of the most difficult parts of operating a cannabis business in California is managing your cash flow. Luckily, this week, the state Senate is taking a step forward to ease that burden. SB930 creates a state charter for banks to serve cannabis businesses. This allows licensed and approved cannabis manufacturers, cultivators, and retailers to write checks to pay fees, taxes, and vendors, ultimately making it easier to do business.
California SB930 proposes putting the Department of Business Oversight in charge of banks and credit unions specifically established to process deposits, withdrawals, and transactions by the state’s budding cannabis industry. If approved, SB930 will allow cannabis companies to use this system of state-licensed banks to pay rent, vendor invoices, and also buy state and local bonds. It also means that the estimated $600 million in cannabis taxes the state intends to collect this year can be paid securely through banks, rather than in cash and in person.
This is great news for cannabis entrepreneurs, as it lowers risk in your accounting procedures and can increase security at your premises. Less cash on-site is a big win for anyone looking to operate safely while keeping security budgets low. A bank dedicated to cannabis businesses will also have implications for what you look for in a real estate property and how you pitch to investors.
The bill has to clear California’s State House of Representatives before going to the governor’s office, but this is overall very good news for the cannabis industry. If you have questions about this bill, or about accounting in general, please get in touch with our experts.
The CDTFA released an update recently relating to the cannabis excise tax on CBD products. For a quick refresher on the cannabis excise tax, take a look at our guide for cannabis retailers. As you prepare your cannabis taxes, here’s what you need to know about the excise tax on cannabidiol products.
Cannabis and CBD Products: Definitions
Per direction from the CDTFA, "Cannabis" refers to all parts of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, excluding industrial hemp. Likewise, "Cannabis products" refers to cannabis and cannabis plant material that has been processed and transformed into defined as cannabis that has undergone a process that transforms it into a concentrate, edible, topical, or other things that contain cannabis.
Does Cannabidiol count as cannabis products?
Cannabidiol comes from both the hemp and marijuana varieties of cannabis. In this case, the CDTFA is focused on the marijuana variety: hemp varieties only have small amounts of THC and have been legal in the US for a while. Therefore. CBD products made from industrial hemp are not subject to the cannabis excise tax. Check with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) for specific regulations related to the industrial hemp industry.
CBD and Excise Tax Regulations
Cannabidiol (CBD) products containing "cannabis" are subject to the cannabis excise tax. CBD products that do not contain cannabis are not subject to the cannabis excise tax, even if the CBD product contains trace amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Questions about the excise tax? Get in touch with our experts today!
We hope you had a nice long weekend. This week, we have cannabis updates from the cities of Ojai, San Luis Obispo and Fillmore. Plus: a few cities are accepting cannabis manufacturing applications on an ongoing basis. Not every city has a hard application deadline!
While most of our newsletters focus on upcoming and open cannabis application windows, it’s also important to note that some cities accept applications on an ongoing basis. For example, the following cities accept manufacturing licenses on an ongoing basis:
Looking for some additional guidance on the licensing process? California Cannabis CPA is here to help make sense of it all. Contact us today with your questions and we can get you started.
Catch Part 1 and Part 2 of our Los Angeles series before reading the third and final article below.
In November 2016, the people of California voted to approve Proposition 64 for the Adult Use of Marijuana (AUMA). This forever changed the landscape of cannabis in California and opened up a slew of opportunities for cannabis businesses. Los Angeles has been home to the legal medical marijuana market for years. However, it had difficulty monitoring illegal use of medical marijuana. Therefore, the city is taking further actions to ensure their ordinances are crystal clear.
A Social Equity program was also created to promote equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the Cannabis industry. Los Angeles has full intentions to issue licenses in the most transparent manner possible.
Los Angeles Required Cannabis Licenses
A license is needed for the following commercial cannabis activities. A license will be issued as one of two categories – A (Adult) or M (Medical). This information is sited directly from the Los Angeles ordinances, so if you’d like to read it in its entirety, you can do so here.
It’s important to note than an applicant may only hold up to 3 Type 10 or Type 9 licenses.
An applicant is not limited in the number of license applications. However, each cultivated area may only be licensed 1.5 acres per applicant.
Los Angeles Cannabis Application Procedure
If you would like to apply for a license is Los Angeles, you need to fill out and file this application for Commercial Cannabis online. Various fees will be required. Candidates will be ineligible if they fall into any of the following categories:
Once you submit a complete application, The Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) will require a pre-licensing inspection. The details are outlined in our Rules and Regulations blog (link to our own blog once ready). EMMDs (existing medical marijuana dispensary) are exempt from this inspection. A pre-licensing inspection must be passed before any temporary approvals or licenses may be issued.
The Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) will mail applicants notice within 10 days of a complete application. They will also inform and mail the owner of the property and any occupants within 500 feet of the business premise. The applicant is also required to hold a hearing, informing the public of the new cannabis business that may be opening within their neighborhood.
Issuance of Los Angeles Cannabis Licenses
The Appeals Process
If you would like to appeal the DCR’s decision or denial of your license, you must do so 15 days from the mailing date of the DCR’s decision. If not filed within 15 days, the appeal is automatically rejected. Click through for more information on page 14 of this document.
Likewise, if you do successfully submit your appeal, the appellate body shall issue its decision within 30 days of the closure of the hearing on the appeal. Unfortunately, if the appellate body does not come to a decision within this time frame it is considered a denial.
Other Must-Know Info for Getting a Los Angeles Cannabis License
Your license is non-transferrable. The only exception to this is if you submit your case (and there’s been an organizational or ownership. Although this is a detailed post, the city of Los Angeles issued a highly comprehensive document that goes into further detail, so we recommend taking a look if you’d like further detail about any of the above topics.
Still looking for some guidance on the licensing process? Let California Cannabis CPA make sense of it all. Contact us today with your questions and we can get you started.
Starting a cannabis company can be a tough sell when trying to raise capital from traditional funding sources. The newness of California’s industry combined with the unknown of funding a new (drug!) business leads to a level of risk unappealing to many investors. In a previous post, we’ve covered different ways you can find an injection of cash for your business. And this week, our experts have a new way to make your business more attractive: real estate.
Use Real Estate as an Investment Opportunity
There are two instances where purchasing real estate can be leveraged as an investment opportunity.
The first, most simple way? Use your real estate as a business in and of itself. Purchase a property in a green zone-compliant area that you can use to operate your business. Then, approach investors with the chance to become part owners in the building, rather than your business.
The second way is to offer a similar investment opportunity on different locations owned by your business. If you plan to open multiple locations but need to raise the capital to purchase the locations, have an investor take ownership in individual properties.
Both examples are a win-win for investors and entrepreneurs. For investors who may be wary of the risk associated with the cannabis industry, real estate is a much safer investment option. For cannabis entrepreneurs, you maintain full ownership of your business. Making an investor a part owner in your real estate rather than your business lets you make decisions as you want and grow your company with more autonomy.
Leasing vs Buying: Green-Zone Property
Does this mean you should make an effort to buy a property rather than leasing it? There are pros and cons to both options. We’ve outlined some of the biggest points to finding real estate previously on the blog. Should you have more specific questions, we’re here to help.
This is a very specific instance where our experts have found ways to make your company successful. Get more advice on how to build your business and join California’s billion-dollar cannabis industry when you consult our experts.
San Francisco recently announced that it will soon be accepting cannabis business permit applications – however, they have not yet announced when the application date will officially open. The city has provided some preliminary application information to get you started, and we recommend you suggest preparing your application now. If you’re not sure where to start, follow this article by reading our guide to the first three steps you should take to start your cannabis business.
San Francisco Cannabis Licensing: Part 1
San Francisco will soon be releasing part 1 of their cannabis business permit application process. On May 7, the City opened office hours to allow for walk-ins and appointments should you have questions. You may schedule a meeting by emailing email@example.com. The office hours are Monday through Friday, 1pm to 5pm, in room 018 located in San Francisco’s City Hall.
Who can apply for a San Francisco cannabis permit?
During Part 1 of the Cannabis Business Application process, San Francisco has very strict criteria. You may only apply to this round of applications for a cannabis business permit if:
This list was taken directly from San Francisco’s website from their list of accepted criteria.
What is San Francisco’s equity program?
San Francisco recognizes that the nationwide and state drug policy has traditionally negatively impacted certain communities, causing additional inequality and a heightened level of hardship. Therefore, San Francisco has proposed an equity program that will allow certain neighborhoods, citizens and communities to have access to a cannabis business permit first.
Normally, applicants would have to pay a permit fee. However, San Francisco is waiving the $5,000 fee for equity applicants. There are also programs that allow for discounted rent and assistance in running a cannabis business.
How to Apply for a San Francisco Cannabis Permit
While San Francisco has not issued an application start date quite yet, the city has written a list of the items required so you can get a head start. The city will require items such as background checks for all owners and proof of a secured location zoned for your business.
The city will issue the following permits:
It is not yet clear how many of each permit San Francisco will issue. Once the application is available, the Cannabis Office will email the verified applicants with further instructions.
When the application is released, prepare to submit a few additional things:
If you have additional questions related to enforcement or the equity program, visit room 362 at City Hall between 9am to 1pm, or call (415) 554-4420.
San Francisco’s application process is sure to be competitive. If you’d like to get a head start today, contact California Cannabis CPA to ask how we can help.
This week we have updates from San Luis Obispo, Jurupa Valley and a reminder to submit those applications for West Hollywood!
Looking for some guidance on the cities listed or others within California? We have a track record of providing research and cannabis application guidance to our clients quickly and accurately. Contact us today to ask how we can help.
The most common question our experts get isn’t always tax related. In fact, it’s a bit more complicated. Everyone wants to know: “what do I need to do to start a cannabis company?”
What seems like a straightforward question usually has a much more complicated response. In this post, we’ll cover the three high-level steps you need to take to get started in California’s $3.7 billion cannabis industry. Our experts have helped dozens of companies launch in cities across California, and without these three factors, getting a license is difficult, if not virtually impossible. Here’s what you need to start a California cannabis company.
Step 1A: Find Real Estate
As we outlined in a previous post, finding properly zoned real estate is the biggest and most important element of starting your business. If you don’t have a lease or purchased property, your cannabis license application will not be approved.
Finding real estate is made especially difficult by a city’s zoning restrictions. Often, a city will release their zoning ordinance just before announcing the opening of cannabis business applications. Commercial real estate is limited to green zone properties; and these properties are fiercely competitive among potential licensees. Our experts frequently see only ten properties available in compliant zones. Narrow those ten properties down to landlords willing to host cannabis businesses, and you’re looking at two or three spaces available to every prospective cannabis business in the city.
Secondly, a landlord willing to lease to a cannabis business is likely going to charge a premium (because they can). Budget ahead of time for a largely inflated lease price, and keep in mind that some landlords will ask for a large deposit to account for the chance that your cannabis license application might not be approved.
Step 1B: Select your Jurisdiction
We’re calling these step 1A and step 1B because these two items are really concurrent processes. Selecting a jurisdiction has as much to do with the available real estate in a district or city as other factors: tax rates, the cost of doing business, and application fees.
To reiterate: without real estate, you will not be able to operate as a cannabis business. However, there are other planning aspects that should play a role in getting your business off the ground. Select your jurisdiction carefully! Not every city allows for every type of cannabis business. Read the regulations (and check out blog for updates as new cities come online) to see how many cannabis licenses will be available and what the selection criteria will be. Check tax rates, crime statistics, and other city-wide regulations to see how easy your life will be once you get approved.
Pro-tip: try to narrow it down to 2-3 jurisdictions before looking for real estate. This will make your life easier!
Step 3: Complete and Submit the Cannabis Business Application
This step sounds pretty straightforward, but our experts say submitting a strong cannabis business application is a full-time task. Give yourself three to four weeks of effort to put together the best application possible. To help you, we’ve compiled our best tips from helping dozens of businesses through the process. Read our advice on how to submit a strong cannabis permit application in California before you get started.
Remember: cities update their ordinances roughly once a year. As this is the first year that cities are releasing cannabis regulations, 2018 can be considered something of a test run. If you have feedback for your respective city, be sure to submit a public comment. When these ordinances and regulations are revisited next year, these comments will be taken into account.
Questions? Get in touch with our experts to learn more about starting a cannabis business in California.
Today, we have cannabis licensing updates from San Bernardino, Alameda County, Ojai, Redwood City, and the City of Alameda.
Have questions about any of the above cities? Get in touch with one of our experts.
As we mentioned in our tips for submitting a strong cannabis permit application, real estate is a key factor in your application’s success. In fact, without a solid lease or property acquisition on the books, your application is virtually guaranteed to be rejected. So, how can you find a space for your business and make sure you get licensed to open? Our experts weigh in.
Finding Real Estate for Your Cannabis Business
Looking for property is a tricky process. It’s a balancing act between timing and finding a needle in haystack.
Because cities have different application windows (which are usually short – two to three weeks), it’s imperative that you find real estate for your business before the application window is open. Competition is simply too fierce to wait until the city announces they are ready to start approving business applications. Likewise, should you fail to obtain property for your business, your application will not be approved.
On the other hand, as a new business, you want to avoid spending a huge amount of money up front without knowing when a city will or will not open their cannabis permit applications. Here’s what we suggest you do first:
Next steps: Locking in Cannabis real estate
Many cities are still drafting their cannabis ordinances – it can take two to ten months for a city to pass an ordinance. While you’re keeping an eye on the city council’s activity, you should budget at least six to eight months of full-time searching to locate your property, according to our experts.
There are two types of city ordinances you should be paying attention to. The first is zoning. Many cities have their zoning ordinances related to cannabis already on the books. For those that don’t, these cities will release their ordinances one or two months before the cannabis permits are announced.
When they release their ordinances, it’s usually a three step process. There will be a first, second (and sometimes third) reading before passing the final regulation. During the first ordinance is when the city outlines the zones, neighborhoods, rules and restrictions around cannabis leasing and property ownership. This first reading should be the spark for your property search. By the final vote and passing of these ordinances, your property should be locked down.
What property is right for your cannabis business?
Now that you understand the ideal timing for finding and committing to cannabis real estate, the tricky part is finding a space that meets your needs. Landlords are often wary of dealing with cannabis companies: but, buying a space is a huge risk in the unfortunate event you aren’t approved for a cannabis license. Either way, signing up for property can feel like a gamble.
There are ways to reduce your insecurity when seeking commercial cannabis property. First, if you’re working with a landlord, approach your tenant agreement with the same thoroughness that you would a business permit application. Show your business plan, financial projections, and anything else that makes it clear you aren’t a fly-by-night business. Demonstrate your security measures and how you will care for the property. Your landlords want to see that you are a good tenant.
Likewise, our experts suggest negotiating for a contingency clause should your cannabis application not get approved by the city. Some landlords will accept a larger up-front deposit with an agreement that if your permit isn’t approved, they keep your cash. This gets you out of paying a long-term lease, but can be costly! And remember: the longer your lease agreement, the easier it will be on your business in the long-run (should you be approved). Prevent the need for looking for real estate in the future by signing as long a lease as possible.
If your plan is to purchase property, make sure you read the city ordinances carefully to be sure you can operate your business in the industrial zone. Consider looking for a space where you can use the building for another use other than cannabis. For example, if you use it as a distributor you can distribute other goods or lease it out to companies in a different industry to help with the financial burden.
Be prepared for steep competition for available cannabis properties. This part of starting your business is going to be a struggle, but without property, you won’t have a business. Consult our experts for help in getting your cannabis company off the ground – we’re here to help!
This week we have updates from West Hollywood, San Francisco and Redwood City. Don’t forget: Culver City applications are due this week!
Check back in later this week for advice from our experts on finding real estate for your cannabis business, guidance on CBD products and the cannabis excise tax, and the final part of our Los Angeles regulations series. Now, onto the latest news from around the state:
If you would like additional information, San Francisco will be hosting office hours starting May 7. You may walk in or set up an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The hours are Monday – Friday from 1:00pm – 5:00pm.
If you’d like assistance with any of the following licenses or other cities within California, please contact us today. We have processed many business applications successfully, helping clients enter California’s cannabis market.
Just announced: West Hollywood, California is now accepting screening applications for cannabis business licenses through May 31, 2018. West Hollywood has provided a lot of detailed information on how to obtain a license, and here’s what you need to know about the process.
West Hollywood Cannabis Ordinance
Back in November of 2017, West Hollywood enacted a Cannabis Ordinance that would allow cannabis businesses to be licensed. According to the West Hollywood Cannabis Business License Screening Application Packet, the following numbers of licenses are to be issued:
West Hollywood Cannabis Application Process
West Hollywood will select its applicants based on specific application weighting criteria. By providing the grading criteria up front, the city is challenging applicants to tailor their application to the city’s exact needs. Be sure to take advantage of this knowledge!
The first step to getting to the actual application, however, is submitting a screening application (screening applications will be accepted May 2 – May 31). The screening application must include the following:
West Hollywood has also provided a comprehensive application overview as well as an application checklist. If you have additional questions, the city has also provided answers to commonly asked questions.
West Hollywood has done a great job providing all the necessary information needed in order to submit a successful screening application. If you would like additional assistance in submitting a successful application, please don’t hesitate to contact California Cannabis CPA.
As we’ve seen over the past few months, California cities and municipalities are offering a limited number of business licenses to new cannabis companies. San Bernardino is offering 17 total licenses; Colfax is has four retail permits up for grabs; San Francisco has a waiting list until 2019; and those are only the most recent announcements. Competition is fierce and barriers to enter California’s cannabis industry are high. That’s not to mention the high application fees you’ll pay for no reason if your license application is rejected.
What are some things you can do to make your application stand out? Our experts have worked with dozens of successful cannabis licensees, and they’ve seen what can make or break an applicant. Here are their top tips for submitting a strong cannabis business application in California.
Read the instructions.
Sounds simple, but every application is different: each municipality has their own twist on what it takes to open a business in their city limits. And, with so many potential businesses vying for a small number of permits, you must follow instructions to the letter. Don’t give the review committee an easy excuse to reject your application just for missing some information or failing to meet one of the requirements!
Do your due diligence.
Our expert’s number one piece of advice is to go above and beyond when it comes to the details. Essentially, you should be thorough in creating your application that if (when!) it is approved, you can pull the trigger and open within a few weeks. This means calling security companies, interior designers, partners, POS vendors, real estate agents, and anyone else who you will need to vet and sign contracts with to get started. Get financial quotes from each of these vendors, and make sure you’re clear about what your start-up costs are.
Keep in mind that all these other businesses are what will make your business successful in the long-term. Don’t panic and start signing up partners you will ultimately struggle to work with. This is not only an important part of your application, but an important part of your inevitable success. Get quotes!
Be financially realistic.
Once you’ve received quotes from partners and third-party vendors, you’ll have a better picture of what it will take for you to actually open your cannabis business. For some, this can be a wake-up call; maybe you need a little more liquid capital than you originally thought. For others, this just verifies that you’re ready to go. Some cities offer bonus points when CPA attests to your financial viability. Submit your financial documents with a seal of approval from a registered accountant to show the city you mean business (literally).
Follow security guidelines.
Make yourself a viable contender in the eyes of whatever city you’re applying for by following security guidelines. Hire a professional to get your on-site security set up: panic buttons, motion sensors, door alarms, vaults, etc. Keep in mind that you are dealing with quite literally with cash and drugs: protect your business and prevent theft. The city doesn’t want to have to spend extra resources investigating any incidents at your business, and they want to see that you take safety seriously.
Compliance also falls under this area of preparation – and applicants frequently get tripped up on compliance issues. The city wants to see if you are going to run an above ground operation. Are you going to pay your taxes, or are you going to run a black market? Show plans for things like inventory control, inventory audits, and commitment to state policies. It’s not enough to make promises: show an action plan including a full inventory sweep every 14 days, for example. Show where on your floor plan you will position cameras, along with the cost per camera and vetted vendor priced out in your business plan.
Have a unique business idea.
In short: branding! California Cannabis CPA experts caution against falling into the “dumb hippie bakeshop” stereotype – unless, of course, that’s a carefully thought through user experience you’re going for. Put a little work into describing what the inside of your dispensary will look like, what the user experience will be, and what your logo and signage will be. What makes you look professional? What sets you apart from every other cannabis store?
Show your role in the community.
As we’ve pointed out in the past, many cannabis business applications have a so-called community section – an opportunity for you to share how you will play a role in supporting the local community. California is well aware that cannabis businesses can expect to rake in the cash: and they want to see how you’re going to add value back to society. Our experts suggest that you select specific causes or community functions with local significance. For example, donating 1-2% of your sales to a local animal shelter is better than saying you’ll send some cash to PETA eventually.
Give yourself enough time.
Our experts recommend giving yourself a full three to four weeks of dedicated time to craft and submit a solid application. That means spending each day drafting contracts, making calls, interviewing potential employees, locating real estate, creating financial projections, and setting up security measures, among other things the application might ask for. Unfortunately, some cities don’t give you the luxury of time: some applications only give you a two week window. In that case, it helps to consult with an expert to prioritize where you can shine on an application.
Has your city announced the opening of their permit application process? Get in touch with California Cannabis CPAs to find out more!
EDITOR'S NOTE: San Bernardino changed it's cannabis application deadline. The new application deadline is June 25, 2018.
There are several important California city due dates approaching! Here’s a quick round-up of the local and city-wide cannabis application deadlines for the month of May. Many of these cities are limiting the number of cannabis licenses available, so competition will be fierce. To give your business the best chance of being approved, work with one of our experts! Later this week, we’ll also be publishing our exclusive tips for submitting the strongest permit application possible.
Culver City Cannabis Application Deadline
Culver City applications due by 5:00PM on Wednesday, May 9. The city will issue a limited number of permits in each of the following categories.
To read more about Culver City’s application process, check out our comprehensive summary.
Moreno Valley Cannabis Application Deadline
Moreno Valley applications are due Friday, May 11. Don’t forget to apply through their online portal. Read more about the application process in our summary.
San Bernardino Cannabis Application Deadline
San Bernardino applications are due Wednesday, May 23. San Bernardino stated that they will be awarding the following licenses, allowing up to 5 in each of the categories until they are taken. Read more about preparing your application in our summary of the city’s requirements.
Colfax Cannabis Application Deadline
Colfax applications are due Monday, June 4. Read our recent blog about the details of applying for their four coveted licenses.
Need some help getting organizing and submitting your city’s application information? Contact us today to get started. Later this week, we’ll have the final part of our Los Angeles cannabis series (read Part 1 and Part 2) as well as everything you need to know to submit a strong permit application – and increase your chances for being approved at any of these cities.