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Starting a Cannabis Business in San Francisco

January 11, 2018



Look for this symbol and follow the instructions.


Common Acronyms

BCC                           Bureau of Cannabis Control

CDFA                        California Department of Food and Agriculture

CDPH                       California Department of Public Health

DBI                            [SF] Department of Building Inspection

MCD                         Medical Cannabis Dispensary

MCSB                       Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch

OOC                         Office of Cannabis

SFDPH                     San Francisco Department of Public Health

SFFD                         San Francisco Fire Department



Was the cannabis business in operation as of 9/26/17?


Yes. (Go to the next question.)

No. (Go to Step 4.)

​Is the business a dispensary/retailer?


Yes. (Go to the next question.)

No. (Go to Step 1A.)

​Is the dispensary permitted under Article 33?


Yes. (Go to Step 1B.)

No. (If the business is a delivery-only retailer, go to Step 1A. Otherwise, go to Step 4.)



Step 1A: Office of Cannabis Registration
  • The deadline to register on the OOC website was 11/30/17.

  • Certain registered businesses will be eligible for a Temporary Cannabis Business Permit.

  • Businesses who did not register will not be eligible for temporary permits to operate in early 2018 and must wait until ‘permanent’ permits are available.                                                                                                                                                                                                        

​​Did you complete the required Office of Cannabis registration process by 11/30/17?


Yes. (Go to Step 2.)

No. (Go to Step 4.)


​​Is your business considered a “pre-existing non-conforming operator”? (See definition below.)


Yes. (You are required to cease operations if you are in a location that is not compliant with the Planning Code. Go to Step 4.)

No. I moved into a compliant location between 9/26/17 and 11/30/17 and listed the compliant location in the OOC registration. (Go to Step 2.)

No. (Go to Step 2.)


​​“Pre-Existing Non-Conforming Operator” means a Cannabis Business that engaged in Commercial Cannabis Activities relating to Medicinal Cannabis as of September 26, 2017, in a location where such activities were not authorized by or consistent with the Planning Code.


Step 1B: Office of Cannabis MCD ‘Registration’
  • Provide the OOC with information about the local permits and licenses the owner intends to seek in 2018 (and other information required by the Director of OOC).

  • MCDs with a valid permit from SFDPH may continue to operate without a local temporary permit.

  • Skip Steps 2 and 3. Go to Step 4.


Step 2: Apply for a SF Temporary Cannabis Business Permit
  • You must have this permit to operate a cannabis business in San Francisco in early 2018.

  • Required for all license types except Storefront Cannabis Retailers (MCDs).

  • Initial permit duration: 120 days (90 day extensions thereafter).

  • Submit to inspections by:

    • Office of Cannabis

    • Fire Department

    • Department of Building Inspection

    • Department of Public Health, including

      • Hazardous Materials and Waste Program

      • Pesticide Use Enforcement Program

  • Allow adequate time to prepare for the inspection and be sure to submit your pre-inspection form at least 24 hours before your appointment.

  • You must demonstrate compliance with interim health and safety standards to protect the health and safety of employees, neighbors, and customers and to prohibit access by underage individuals.


Step 3: Apply for a CA Temporary License


Apply with the correct agency, depending on the license type sought:

  • BCC:  Bureau of Cannabis Control Online Licensing System

  • MCSB: Manufactured Cannabis Licensing System

  • CDFA: CalCannabis Online Licensing System

All three agencies are currently accepting temporary licensing applications.

Proof of authorization from the local San Francisco government is required to obtain a state temporary license.

Initial: 120 days (90-day extensions thereafter), effective no sooner than 1/1/18.


Step 4: Apply for a Local Permit (annual)


This is the earliest opportunity for new cannabis businesses and pre-existing non-conforming operators to obtain a local permit, subject to the criteria specified in local law (including requirements pertaining to the Equity Program).


Prioritization of applications:

  1. Equity applicants

  2. Equity incubators

  3. Pre-existing non-conforming operators (operating in compliance with CUA as of 9/1/16)

  4. Applicants that commit to providing benefits to the community

  5. All other applicants


Step 5: Apply for a CA License (annual)


Apply with the correct agency, depending on the license type sought:

  • BCC:  Bureau of Cannabis Control Online Licensing System

  • MCSB: Manufactured Cannabis Licensing System

  • CDFA: CalCannabis Online Licensing System


Step 6: Open for business!
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