Cannabis Business Readiness Guide
A Guide for Current and Prospective Cannabis Businesses
This page contains answers to common questions regarding cannabis activities in San Luis Obispo County and is being provided for informational purposes only.
This information is only intended for the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County. Please note: Each municipality in SLO County has different rules, which are established by their City Council. If you plan to operate within the city limits of Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach or San Luis Obispo, different rules will apply.
If you plan to engage in commercial cannabis activities outside of those city limits, this page is for you.
If you are interested in operating a cannabis-related business in the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County, please take the following steps.
STEP 1: Apply for a County land use permit and a County business license on the same day.
STEP 2: Make a background check appointment with the Sheriff's Office as part of the business licenses process.
- The County Sheriff's Office will conduct a criminal history background check for all cannabis-related business license applications before a license is approved.
- Call (805) 781-4575 to schedule a background check.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Business licenses will be issued only after the land use permit is approved and the background check is passed.
STEP 3: Apply for state licenses and permits (as well as any other required licenses and permits) only after the County issues the required licenses and permits.
- A County-issued business license and land use permit are both required in order to apply for a State license. To avoid delays in this process, please apply for both on the same day.
- The County is not involved in the State license process, but more information on the State's process can be found at www.cannabis.ca.gov/licensing.
- See the Resources for Businesses section below regarding for more information about resources and other requirements.
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How to Apply for a Business License
STEP 1: Provide the Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector (ACTTC) with the following details.
- Business name
- Business address
- Name of owner of business location
- Name of corporation officers and address of home office
STEP 2: Submit a business license application along with the application fee.
In addition to the application fee, an annual renewal fee is required. For specific license fees, as well as other questions, please contact the ACTTC.
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How to Apply for a Land Use Permit
STEP 1: Complete the Land Use Permit Application Package.
The land use permit application and all required forms and documents can be found on the County's website at www.slocounty.ca.gov/cannabis.
STEP 2: Submit an application and pay the fee.
The application fee must be paid in full once you have your completed application and your materials are ready for submission.
STEP 3: Allow for the 30-day review period and 4-6 months for final approval.
You will receive letter indicating whether or not your project has been accepted as complete for processing about 30 days after applying for a land use permit. This does not mean your permit is approved. The permit process may take four months or longer to complete all necessary reviews and processing, and any decision can be appealed.
For more information about the land use permit application process, please contact the Planning and Building Department.
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Resources for Businesses
There are many resources available for anyone who wants to develop a business in San Luis Obispo County.
- State tax guide for cannabis businesses
- Federal taxes. All for-profit ventures are subject to federal income taxes. Under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 280E, the IRS generally does not allow businesses involved in “trafficking of controlled substances” to deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses, but does require the payment of federal income taxes. For more information please see memo 201504011 issued by the IRS Chief Counsel on 1/23/2015. For questions about your specific business, contact a CPA or other qualified professional.
- County business property taxes and assessments:
View Business Licenses in SLO County's Unincorporated Areas (map)
The County provides an online mapping application called Business License View that displays all currently licensed businesses in the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County. Please note: Business License View does not show businesses licensed in incorporated cities, which all issue their own business licenses within city limits. City data is not captured by the County government.
SCORE SLO offers is a nonprofit organization that offers free mentoring sessions, workshops and Business Development Tools and Templates, including a complete guide to important steps in starting your business.
Economic Vitality Corporation of SLO County
The Economic Vitality Corporation of SLO County (EVC) also provides a list of resources to businesses and access to capital. In a continued effort to grow the network of local entrepreneurs and investors on the Central Coast, the EVC created the Central Coast Capital Network. This group helps enable local entrepreneurs to access capital from venture capitalists, angel investors, and others.
Air Pollution Control District
The Air Pollution Control District (APCD) has determined that all cannabis processing facilities are subject to permitting requirements and must complete and submit an application for an Authority to Construct (ATC) prior to operation.
The APCD's Cannabis Manufacturing/Processing Application can be found on the APCD website along with other application requirements.
Register Your Business Entity and Name
If you are setting up a legal business entity, all required documentation must be approved by the State of California before the business entity can become a legally recognized entity.
1. You will need to file your fictitious business name with the County Clerk-Recorder's Office if you plan to conduct business under a name that does not contain the surname of any and all owners, or is a legal business entity that will do business under another name than is registered with the State.
2. Then file for your business license. The business information must also match the information on the business’s County Business License.
3. Once all of that is complete, you can register with the California Secretary of State.
CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing
CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, a division of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), ensures public safety and environmental protection by licensing and regulating commercial cannabis cultivators in California.
This division will issue cultivator licenses and is also responsible for implementing the Track-and-Trace System for plants from cultivation to sale.
Bureau of Cannabis Control
Located within the California Department of Consumer Affairs, the Bureau of Cannabis Control is responsible for regulating and issuing commercial cannabis licenses for retailers, distributors, microbusinesses, testing laboratories, and temporary cannabis events.
Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch
The California Department of Public Health’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch (MCSB) is responsible for regulation of all commercial cannabis manufacturing in California.
State Water Resources Board
In December 2017, the State's Office of Administrative Law approved and put into the State's regulatory code the State Water Board Cannabis Cultivation Regulatory Program, which is now in effect. Visit the State Water Board's Cannabis Regulatory Program Portal to enroll for coverage under the Cannabis General Order or to file for a cannabis Small Irrigation Use Registration.
California Cannabis Track-and-Trace System
The California Cannabis Track-and-Trace (CCTT) system is the program used statewide to record the inventory and movement of cannabis and cannabis products through the commercial cannabis supply chain — from cultivation to sale. The state’s contracted service provider for the CCTT system is the technology company Franwell, Inc., and they are using the METRC software program — the same program now used in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and Nevada for their cannabis programs. The California Department of Technology is leading the procurement effort for the Cannabis Track-and-Trace System.
Visit https://cannabis.ca.gov/ for an overview of the state licensing authorities, including more information about the responsibilities of each state department required to regulate cannabis.
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