1. Who can apply
You can apply for a Cannabis Business Permit in the City of San Francisco if your business:
- qualifies for the Equity Program
- holds a temporary permit from the Office of Cannabis
- is a Medical Cannabis Dispensary with a permit under Article 33 from the Department of Public Health
- applied for an Article 33 Permit from the Department of Public Health that required referral to and approval by the Planning Commission before September 26, 2017
- registered with the Office of Cannabis in 2017, proved existing activity, signed and complied with an affidavit
- operated in compliance with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and were forced to stop operations as a result of federal prosecution or threat of federal prosecution
If you don’t meet any of the criteria above, you can apply after we open applications. The City’s goal is to issue at least half of all cannabis permits to Equity businesses before allowing any other types of cannabis businesses to apply.
2. Set up your business
- Choose your business structure.*
- Register your business with the CA Secretary of State.* This can take up to 4 weeks. Sole Proprietorship or General Partnerships can bypass this step.
- Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS if you have or will have employees. If you're a sole proprietor without any employees, you can use your Social Security Number.
- Register your business and location with San Francisco Treasurer & Tax Collector* (you will need your Business Account Number and Location ID to apply with the Office of Cannabis). If you need to add your location to your Business Account, do so a day or two before you submit the application.
- Choose your business name. If your business will operate under a name that's not the name of the company or one of the partners or owners, you may need to file a Fictitious Business Name (FBN).
- You will need to upload, as part of the application, all of your business formation documents filed with the California Secretary of State, and all supporting documents, which may include, but are not limited to: *
Equity Applicant businesses
If you are applying as a verified Equity Applicant, you must be one of the following:
- sole owner
- own 40% of the business and be the CEO
- own at least 51% of the business
- a board member of a non-profit cannabis business where the majority of the board also qualify as equity applicants
- an individual with a membership interest in a cannabis business formed as a cooperative
You must upload a description of how you meet the ownership requirements of the Equity Program. You must also upload any other material agreements in place for the existing ownership structure and operation of the business. These documents could include, but are not limited to: *
Equity Incubator businesses
If you are applying as an Equity Incubator, you must upload your Equity Incubator Agreement. This agreement must meet the Equity Incubator Agreement requirements for your application to be considered complete: *
3. Find a location
Cannabis Business Permits are based on location. You will need to submit an application for every address at which you are seeking cannabis permits.
4. Get authorization to operate at your location
An owner means any of the following:
- a person or business entity with an ownership interest of 20% or more of the business applying for the permit
- the chief executive officer or function equivalent
- members of the board of directors of a nonprofit
- any individual or business entity participating in the direction, control, or management of the cannabis business applying for the permit
A business entity means any firm, partnership, joint venture, association, corporation, limited liability company, estate, trust, business trust, receiver, syndicate, or any other entity, or other group or combination acting as a unit.
- 6. Background check for all owners*
To apply for a Cannabis Business Permit, all owners need to get a background check. Owners include members of business entities who own 20% or more of your cannabis business.
Cannabis Company has 3 owners:
- Person 1 owns 20%
- Person 2 owns 40%
- Entity owns 40% (this entity is a partnership of Person 3 and Person 4)
- Person 5 is the CEO.
After applying for a Cannabis Business Permit, Person 1, Person 2, Person 3, Person 4 and Person 5 all need to get background checks.
- 7. Financial interest
If any person or business entity has invested in or will receive profits from your cannabis business, you need to list them in the application. These people do not need to get a background check.
You should tell us about any person or business entity with financial interests in your cannabis business if:
- they invested money in your cannabis business
- they will receive any of the profits
- they loaned your cannabis business money
You should not tell us about any person or business entity with financial interests in your cannabis business if:
- you’ve already told us about that person
- the business entity is a diversified mutual fund, blind trust or similar instrument
- the interest is a creditor, holding a security interest, lien, or encumbrance on property
- it’s a loan from a bank, financial institution or government entity
If you are not sure whether you need to list an investor, it's better to tell us about them.
- 8. Permit type*
A Cannabis Business Permit allows you to do one type of business at one location unless you have a microbusiness. You need to tell us what type of business you will be running. Changing this later could complicate and severely delay your approvals, and could require you to submit a new application to the Office of Cannabis.
- 9. Activity*
You need a Cannabis Business Permit for each activity, even if you have more than one activity at an address. You must pay for each permit, and you need a permit for each activity. Microbusinesses are the only exception to this rule, with 4 activities at one location.
Equity Applicants won’t pay for their permits this year, but will pay for renewals in future years.
You can apply for a Cannabis Business Permit to be a:
- cultivator or grower (indoor)
- manufacturer (volatile or non-volatile)
- retailer (medical and adult use)
- delivery only retailer (medical and adult use)
- medicinal cannabis retailer (medical only)
- testing laboratory
A microbusiness gets 1 permit for 1 location to conduct 4 activities: cultivation (less than 10,000 square feet), manufacturing (non-volatile only), distribution, and retail.
- 10. State license*
To make sure your property is zoned for the right activity, we need to know what state permit you are applying for. We’ve matched the list of California license types.
- 11. Adult use vs medical use*
San Francisco is permitting retail medicinal use only or combined medicinal and adult use. That means if you want to sell adult use cannabis in San Francisco, you will be required to sell medicinal cannabis as a condition of your permit.
- 12. Support your community*
You will need to develop a Good Neighbor Policy to outline how your physical business will interact with immediate neighbors.
You must do outreach for your neighbors to get feedback on your Good Neighbor Policy. If you are already doing outreach for Planning Department Pre-Application Meetings, you can combine cannabis business outreach with it.
Tell us your proposals to further San Francisco’s equity goals. Let us know if you plan on having a Compassion Program to subsidize cannabis products for patients. We also want to know if you make any other agreements to benefit the wider community.
- 13. (Upcoming) Operation plans*
Later in the application we will ask how your business will operate. The operation requirements include:
- Security plan
- Premises diagram
- Energy plan
- Water management plan
- Hazardous materials plan (for cultivators or manufacturers)
- Track-and-trace compliance plan
- Power management plan
- Odor mitigation plan
- Cannabis processing equipment
See a preliminary list of requirements. We will post the regulations on the website as are they are finalized.
- 14. (Upcoming) Workforce*
Before you open your business, we want to know about your staffing plans. They include: