California Cannabis Licensing

California Cannabis Licensing


California has historically been the cannabis capital of the world although its history with the plant is a deep and turbulent one. Over a century ago, California was one of the first states in the U.S. to prohibit cannabis before federal laws were created banning the sale nationwide. Over the next decades, federal prohibition contributed to further prohibit the plant, despite the public’s continued medical and recreational use. Despite these challenges, California still maintained deep cultural connections to cannabis. In 1975 California became the second state after Oregon to decriminalize cannabis possession.

In 1991 voters in the city of San Francisco passed the first medical marijuana initiative in the United States, by an astounding 79%. Five years later, The first state-wide medical marijuana program was created when Proposition 215 was passed. Significant regulatory changes were made for medical marijuana in 2015, with the implementation of several state bills comprising the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA).  Finally, in 2016, voters in the state passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), allowing and establishing rules for recreational cannabis use for anyone over 21.

California Marijuana Businesses License

Multiple state licensing authorities and departments are involved in California’s marijuana business licensing. This has created the need for multifaceted, strategic approaches to make a working cannabis business. The following is a list of government organizations that issue cannabis business licenses and the licenses they issue. 

The Bureau of Cannabis Control (California Department of Consumer Affairs)

  • Retailers
  • Distributors
  • Testing Laboratories
  • Microbusinesses
  • Temporary Cannabis Events

CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing

  • Cultivators (Growers)

Manufactured Safety Branch

  • Manufacturers of Cannabis Products

There are subtle differences between the license types available. The shorthand for license types is A-designated for adult use and M-designated for medical use. Regulations allow businesses to acquire multiple license types, but distributors can only transfer between their respective business types. Restrictions on transfers between A-designated and M-designated licenses are in place to ensure compliance with the California Department of Public Health’s standards.

Specialized and small-scale cannabis business opportunities exist with microbusiness licenses, allowing cultivation of cannabis on an area less than 10,000 square feet and permitting businesses to act as a licensed distributor, Level 1 manufacturer, and retailer, as specified in an application. Consumers with increasingly refined preferences might favor these all-in-one boutique businesses because of the level of control over their end products.

California hemp business licensing

While hemp is often scientifically categorized as a type of cannabis, for practical purposes the state of California categorizes “Industrial Hemp” separately from “Cannabis”. The Business and Professions Code section 26001(f) and  Health and Safety Code section 11018.5 provides definitions for each. A product that fits the definition of cannabis requires a state cannabis license, while a product that fits the “Industrial hemp” criteria is subject to separate regulations. This definition also prevents businesses with cannabis from selling industrial hemp products on the same premises. Industrial hemp in California is regulated by the California Industrial Hemp Program and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Gateway Proven Strategies (GPS) provides consulting and professional services for medical, adult-use, hemp, and ancillary services in California. California’s multiple licensing authorities and local jurisdictions can appear overwhelming, but consultants can help navigate through this dynamic environment.  Gateway Proven Strategies is committed to providing clients with sustainable, dependable outcomes for the longevity and success of their cannabis business in California. 

Contact GPS to discuss your California Cannabis Goals!