Know Before You Grow

cannabis plants

The County Board of Supervisors has established permanent regulations for cannabis activities in the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County. While some cannabis-related business activities will be allowed, they will be limited. Read the full ordinances.


NOTE: Land use permit applications will not be accepted until the ordinances become effective. The inland ordinance took effect on December 31, 2017. The coastal zone ordinance will become effective if it is certified by the California Coastal Commission. Staff is unable to anticipate an effective date for the coastal zone ordinance.

Are you an applicant seeking to apply for a land use permit?

If you have questions regarding the ordinance application to a specific property, and would like information from other agencies (building, Cal Fire, etc.), please schedule a pre-application meeting with a planner.

If you would like to look up specific property information from home, please use our LUView program.

Related Services

Cannabis Business Readiness Guide
Cannabis Manufacturing Guidance
County Business Licenses
Land Use Permits
Business License Review
Personal Use & Cultivation of Cannabis

Related Forms & Documents

Cannabis Rules in SLO County
State Cannabis Cultivation Resources
State and Federal Laws Regarding Cannabis

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find more information on the adopted ordinances?
Where can I find more information on the land use permit application process?
Do I need a state license to grow cannabis for personal use?

No. However, all personal grows must be done indoors and only six plants are allowed to be grown per residence (not per person at the residence). Your six plant count includes all immature (not flowering) and mature (flowering) plants. All plants and harvested cannabis in excess of one (1) ounce must be kept within the person’s private residence, in a locked space, that is not visible from a public place.

What permits and licenses do I need to commercially grow cannabis in SLO County?

In order to grow commercial cannabis in SLO County, a Land Use permit is required in addition to a County business license and State license. There are four different types of land use permits, depending on the uses of land or types of businesses that may have an impact on their community. Please refer to the Land Use Permit Process User Guide for more information.

If you are looking to grow 6 plants or less for personal consumption, no license is required.  However, all personal cultivation must be done indoors and the 6 plant limit includes both immature (nonflowering) and mature (flowering) plants.  A maximum of 6 plants is allowed per dwelling (not per person in the dwelling).

Who is able to grow cannabis commercially in SLO?

Those who obtain a County land use permit, County business license, and a State cannabis license are able to grow cannabis commercially in SLO County. 

As a general rule, you may apply for a land-use permit for commercial cannabis cultivation if you meet one of the following conditions:

  1. You have an approved co-op/collective registration under Urgency Ordinance 3334
  2. You have an approved personal cultivation under Urgency Ordinance 3334, but can prove that the cultivation was in fact a co-op/collective.

Other cultivators who applied for registration may also be allowed to apply to grow cannabis commercially. If you believe this exclusion applies to your situation, contact the County Planning & Building Department. Note: During the Board of Supervisors hearings on the cannabis, the Board indicated that it may consider allowing additional applications in 2018/19. 

Where can I grow commercial cannabis?

If you own all required permits and licenses, the following land use categories (zones) allow for cannabis cultivation:

  • Agriculture – a 10 acre minimum site is required
  • Rural Lands – a 50 acre minimum site is required
  • Residential Rural – a 20 acre minimum site is required; outdoor cultivation is prohibited
  • Industrial – no minimum site area is required; outdoor cultivation is prohibited

Commercial cultivation is prohibited in all land use categories that are not listed above. Additionally, certain areas may have Planning Area Standards that do not allow cannabis cultivation, even if the property is zoned properly.

How much commercial cannabis can I grow?

Outdoor cultivation: 

  • On sites 10-25 acres in size: 2 operations per site.
  • On sites greater than 25 acres in size: 3 operations per site.

Indoor cultivation: A maximum of 22,000 square-feet per site (may be made up of multiple operations).
* An operation is limited in size to a single State cultivation license.

How far does my commercial cannabis cultivation have to be from the property line?
  • Indoor cultivation setbacks (the distance between which a building or structure and a property line) are based on the structure you are growing in and what land use category you are located in. Typically, greenhouses and other Agricultural structures in rural areas must be setback 30-100 feet from property lines. Industrial areas typically have a 0-foot setback requirement. The environmental review process (CEQA) may require additional setbacks.
  • Outdoor cultivation must be 300 feet from the property lines and 50 feet from any riparian vegetation or a watercourse.
  • Setbacks may be modified through the use permit process for unique site circumstances.
  • All cultivation must be located 100 feet from other residences and outdoor living areas (patios, pools, etc.) and 1,000 feet from schools, parks, etc.

What's the difference between cultivation and nurseries?

Cannabis nurseries are limited to the production of clones, immature plants, seeds, or other agricultural products used specifically for the planting, propagation, and cultivation of cannabis. Cannabis nurseries cannot grow mature plants, with the exception of certain research exemptions.

Where can I have a cannabis nursery?

Cannabis nurseries are allowed in the following land use categories (zones):
o Agriculture – no minimum site area is required
o Rural Lands – no minimum site area is required
o Residential Rural – a 5-acre minimum site is required; outdoor nurseries are prohibited
o Industrial – no minimum site area is required; outdoor nurseries are prohibited

What is the difference between cannabis and industrial hemp?

While both cannabis and industrial hemp come from the same plant (Cannabis Sativa L), they are different in the eyes of the law due to how each is used and grown.

Current County of SLO regulations defines cannabis as any and all parts of the plant Cannabis indica, Cannabis ruderalis, or Cannabis sativa L (excluding plants which fall under the legal definition of industrial hemp) as outlined in the County Inland Ordinance and Coastal Ordinance. Cannabis is typically cultivated for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance most known for its physical and psychological effects. 

Industrial hemp commonly refers to the industrial and commercial use of the cannabis stalk, fibers and seeds, according to Section 11018.5 of the Health and Safety Code. However, because of its low THC levels (to be legally considered industrial hemp, the plants must contain less than 0.3% THC), industrial hemp is not cultivated for psychoactive use.

Industrial hemp will generally be densely planted as a field or row crop. Pruning and tending of individual industrial hemp plants is prohibited. Industrial hemp will need to be tested prior to harvest to ensure it does not exceed THC limits. To learn more about industrial hemp limitations and laboratory testing, please refer to Section 81006 of the Food and Agricultural Code.

According to the California Department of Public Health, only CBD derived from a licensed cannabis cultivator is an allowed additive in cannabis products. CBD derived from industrial hemp is not approved for use in cannabis products. In addition, CBD from any source is not an approved food additive, and cannot be added to human or animal foods in California.  

Can I commercially grow hemp in SLO County?

Not at this time. Registration to grow industrial hemp in SLO County is expected to be available by early 2019. Once registration is available, all commercial growers of industrial hemp must register with the County Department of Agriculture/Weights and Measures prior to cultivation. The process and fees for registration are under development by the California Industrial Hemp Advisory Board and will be implemented at the local level by the County Department of Agriculture. The registration fees and rules have not yet been established by the state advisory board, but are expected to be completed later this year.

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