Commercial Cannabis Activity License
County Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance
On December 12, 2017, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance allowing mixed-light (greenhouse) cannabis cultivation, including nursery cultivation, in the unincorporated areas. The Board also prohibited for another year the issuance of any other commercial cannabis licenses, such as retail sales. In addition, the Board extended the prohibition on personal outdoor cultivation on the grounds of a private residence.
The County will only issue licenses in areas designated “agriculture” by the County General Plan or on land with documented agricultural use for at least three prior years. All parcels proposed for cultivation must also be set back a minimum of 1,000 feet from residential parcels, schools, youth centers, playgrounds, and alcohol or drug treatment facilities (measured from property line to property line). Additionally, all buildings to be used for cultivation must be set back a minimum of 300 feet from residences and businesses on surrounding properties (measured from nearest exterior wall to nearest exterior wall of the building associated with cultivation).
The ordinance includes comprehensive application requirements, such as criminal background checks, record-keeping policies, and plans to address odor control and ventilation, noise, lighting, and hazardous materials. Failure to comply with the ordinance will result in fines and the possible suspension or revocation of the licensee’s right to engage in commercial cultivation activities within the unincorporated County.
View the County ordinance »
Beginning January 2nd, 2018, the Planning and Building Department will be responsible for the processing and issuance of commercial cannabis licenses. Prior to license application processing, any building/structures and land shall be free of any violations of State and local standards, including, without limitation, County building and land use regulations, County health and safety standards, and applicable fire standards.
The following is an overview of the Application Process for a Commercial Cannabis Activity License in the unincorporated San Mateo County area. Applications for a license must be submitted electronically.
STEP 1. Confirm that the parcel on which you wish to establish cultivation operations is in the unincorporated San Mateo County area and potentially qualifies for a license (e.g., property setbacks). You can use the County’s GIS map to determine if the parcel is designated “Agriculture” in the County's General Plan and view the 1,000-foot Protected Sites Buffer. However, this map in not exhaustive. You will need to ensure the parcel fully qualifies under the Cannabis Ordinance.
STEP 2. Download the Application Checklist and begin gathering information.
STEP 3. Download and complete the application forms: Application Form, Banking Information, Business Owner Details, Investments, Loan Information, Gifts, Other Licensing Information, Acknowledgment Form and Indemnification Agreement. As part of the Application Form, you will be required to gather and prepare all required additional documents (e.g., surety bond) and plans (e.g., fire plan, waste management plan). The Department has prepared a Property Improvement Plan Requirements Checklist for your use.
STEP 4. Request permission to electronically submit your application, documents, and plans to the County’s secured Microsoft OneDrive site by completing the Request to Submit Commercial Cannabis Activity Licence Application. Once you submit the request and receive a confirmation email, you will have 14 calendar days to upload all forms and plans.
Upon complete submittal to the secured OneDrive site, the County has 30 days to review and provide comments to the applicant. The Planning and Building Department will notify the applicant of any deficiencies. You will have 30 calendar days to address these deficiencies, questions, or comments and upload revised documents to OneDrive. Failure to respond within 30 days will result in the license application being deemed abandoned.
County review of your application may result in required site improvements subject to separate permitting process(es) and fees in order to comply with land use, building code, and health and safety requirements. Planning, Building, Environmental Health permits, among others, may be processed concurrently with your application for a license. However, new development and outstanding permits (e.g., violations, stop work notices) must be completed/resolved prior to the issuance of the license.
For questions or comments about the licensing process, please contact: CannabisInfo@smcgov.org