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A Guide to Getting a California Cannabis Dispensary License

by Vende Posted in Legal

A Guide to Getting a California Cannabis Dispensary License

Cannabis legalization in California happened in November 2016, opening new doors for cannabis entrepreneurs. At the close of 2022, California had 866 licensed cannabis dispensaries and more than 374 licensed cannabis delivery businesses. According to data in 2018, California has the largest legal and illicit cannabis market in the United States. Licensed cannabis dispensaries provide the cannabis community with a safe and legal way of acquiring cannabis and cannabis-related products. There are many cannabis dispensaries in the market, but they can’t meet the ever-growing demand for cannabis and cannabis-related products. 

California cannabis dispensaries provide cannabis for both recreational and medicinal use. According to Californian law, a cannabis dispensary falls in the category of commercial activity. And “To participate in Commercial Cannabis Activity within the City of Los Angeles, both a state license and a local license is required." Additionally, "The City of Los Angeles has established a Licensing and Social Equity Program that enumerates various licensing and application processing restrictions."

To operate a cannabis dispensary, you need to get a business license from the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), the state agency that regulates and licenses cannabis businesses. DCC was formed on July 12, 2021, after merging three former state cannabis authorities.

Applying For a Cannabis Dispensary License in California

Step 1: completing the local permitting processes

The state of California has various cities and counties, each with its own distinct rules and permits for cannabis businesses. You will be shocked that some local jurisdictions don't allow cannabis business operations; that's why it’s essential to set up your business in a region where commercial cannabis activity is permitted.

Step 2: Leaning the required state regulations for your cannabis businesses

The cannabis sector has different sections with various businesses. The DCC has set requirements and regulations for standard operating procedures, setting up facilities, and training employees. Ensure you fully understand the state regulations regarding opening and operating a cannabis dispensary.

Step 3: Collecting your application documents and information

One of the easiest ways to deny your license application is failing to provide all the required information. The DCC has plenty of resources for cannabis business owners, which help them provide and create all the documents they need for their applications. A functional and available DCC licensing team is also ready to handle any inquiry about the license application process.

Step 4: Creating the correct licensing system account

The Department of Cannabis Control has three licensing systems, making it easy for license applicants to pick the most suitable system for their business. Once you click on the system, you must open an online user account. Always have your username and password, as you will need them to log back in when applying for license renewal. 

Step 5: Complete Your Application

Once you have opened your account, you must fill in all the information for your application. You are also required to upload al the necessary documents. Remember to disclose all the information regarding financial interest holders and business owners. Thanks to the auto-save feature of the system, you don’t need to complete the application in one sitting; you can save your progress and continue the application some other time. Once you have finished the license application, you must sign it and submit it.

Step 6: Pay your license application fee

The DCC will not process your cannabis dispensary license application without you paying the application fee. The DCC has clear guidelines on how business owners are supposed to pay the license application fee.

Step 7: Checking your emails

Once you submit your application, the DCC licensing team will contact you through your email address. Thus it’s critical to frequently check your emails for any communication regarding your license application.

Step 8: Paying your license fee

Once your license application is successful, you must pay the license fee. The DCC licensing team will email you the license fee payment instructions. Different payment methods use bank checks, MasterCard or visa cards, or money orders. Cash payments are allowed at the DCC office, even though one is required to set up an appointment with the office. 

Step 9: Post your license

After receiving your cannabis dispensary license, you must legally display it publicly on your business premises. The DCC license lasts one year and can be easily downloaded from the DCC system. 

Location Requirements and Sensitive Use Restrictions

The City of Los Angeles restricts where Commercial Cannabis Activity may lawfully occur. The City restricts Commercial Cannabis Activities to specific zones. Sensitive use restrictions include but may not be limited to the following:

  • A licensed retail storefront must be outside a 700-foot radius of a School, Public Park, Public Library, Alcoholism or Drug Abuse Recovery or Treatment Facility, daycare center, Permanent Supportive Housing, and any other licensed storefront retailer.

  • A licensed non-storefront retailer (delivery), distributor, cultivator, non-volatile manufacturer, or testing lab must be outside a 600-foot radius of any school.

  • A volatile manufacturer must be outside a 600-foot radius of any School and a 200-foot radius of any Residentially Zoned Property.


Prohibitions on Unlicensed Commercial Cannabis Activity and Certain Medical Marijuana Collectives.

   1.   It is unlawful for a person to establish, operate, or participate as an Employee, contractor, agent, or volunteer in any unlicensed Commercial Cannabis Activity in the City.

   2.   It is unlawful for a person to establish, operate or participate in a medical marijuana collective or cooperative unless in a dwelling unit with three or fewer qualified patients, persons with identification cards or primary caregivers, or any combination thereof.

   3.   The prohibitions in Subsections (a)1. and (a)2., including renting, leasing to, or otherwise allowing any unlicensed Commercial Cannabis Activity or a medical marijuana collective or cooperative to occupy or use any building or land.

Starting on January 1, 2018, it is unlawful to:

   1.   Own or operate an Unlawful Establishment;

   2.   Participate as an Employee, contractor, agent, or volunteer or in any other capacity in an Unlawful Establishment;

   3.   Use any portion of any parcel of land as an Unlawful Establishment; or

   4.   Lease, rent to, or otherwise allow an Unlawful Establishment to occupy any portion of a parcel of land.

As you have read in this article it is not as straightforward as other industries. Operating a cannabis business is extremely difficult, and not having the know how can really affect your bottom line. Vende POS is made to help its clients run the business they have always wanted. Providing you with all the necessary tools for your business to succeed is our goal. Schedule a demo with us today and see how running your business on the Vende platform can help.