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How to Secure A Marijuana Business License for 2018

September 28, 2017

While state officials are still working out the fine print for California's Measure M, marijuana business owners can begin taking steps to secure a license for 2018. There are a few things we learned from this year's California Cannabis Business Conference, that will significantly improve your chances of being granted a business license.

Temporary Licenses

California will be following in the footsteps of states where cannabis is already legal for adult use such as, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Temporary licenses will be issued for those who qualify, but the process will probably evolve once all the regulations are in place.

Marijuana businesses that possess a temporary license will then need to take additional steps to obtain a permanent license that must be renewed annually. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control will issue temporary licenses for a period of four months but will be able to extend the licenses if they become overwhelmed with applications.

Marijuana business application

Business Classification

An important decision for marijuana business owners to make sooner rather than later is whether or not they'll be a medical marijuana dispensary, an adult use dispensary, or both.

A temporary license will suffice for both medical and adult use dispensaries, however once the license has been issued these businesses will only be allowed to work with other licensed businesses.

When to Apply

Marijuana business owners should begin preparing materials for the application process immediately, but the official applications will only be available satrting in early December. Once applications are available you should be able to find them on the California Bureau of Cannabis Control website.

Apply Locally First

Local permits are a mandatory requirement for state approval. Unfortunately, regulations vary from city to city and county to county making it more difficult to be permitted in conservative districts. Once a potential business understands the local requirements, it's best to present an organized and detailed business plan with the application.

Acquiring a local permit is the first big step in receiving approval from the state. It's important to note that newly established businesses might find it difficult to receive a state license. The state will prioritize businesses that have a long history of compliance with local city and county regulations.

License Fees

This is the x-factor most business want to know as the state hasn't stipulated what licensing fees will cost. This will of course be in addition to application fees.

Estimating from states that have been approved for legal marijuana sales in the past, application and licensing fees could range from $5,000-$15,000 depending on the number of patients/customers. It's doubtful that renewals fees will be much less than the initial fees but at this point we can only estimate.

Marijuana Business Fees


As explained above, a city and/or county permit is required for the state application process. Additional information will include documentation verifying incorporation, a location lay-out displaying security features and entrances, background checks for owners/operators, and a clearly defined business plan.

Having this information readily available will be extremely helpful when applying for license during the small window from early December to January 1st.

What's Next

Beyond collecting the necessary permits and documentation, the best advice would be to stay updated on the legislation. We highly recommend signing up to the CBCC's email newsletter to receive alerts on licensing information. You can also attend CBCC's licensing workshops that will be taking place across California in the month of October.