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The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors has provided a means for regulating the cannabis industry in a manner which balances the needs of medical patients and their caregivers, and adults over the age of 21 interested in recreational use, while promoting the health, safety and welfare of residents and businesses within the unincorporated territory of Santa Cruz County.

The Cannabis Licensing Office was originally formed to implement the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), which was approved by the State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor in 2015 (see Assembly Bills 243 and 266, and Senate Bill 643) and create a licensing and regulatory framework for medical cannabis. With the passage of Proposition 64, Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) in November 2016, the Cannabis Licensing Office has also taken on the task of developing local regulations to implement AUMA.

Thank you in advance for your support and patience as we work together to pioneer this new area of law.


To regulate cannabis businesses in the County of Santa Cruz, the County has taken the following actions:

Adopted a Dispensary ordinance County Code 7.130 for licensing medical cannabis dispensaries. Licensing involving 14 eligible dispensaries is currently underway. For more information click here.

Commissioned an Environmental Impact Report for two proposed cannabis ordinances, County Code 7.128 Commercial Cannabis Cultivation, and County Code 7.132 Commercial Cannabis Manufacture.

Note: In addition to a local license for Cultivation, Manufacturing, and Dispensaries, licensees MUST ALSO obtain a state license to legally operate in the State of California. For more information visit the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation:

Cannabis Environmental Review Status

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the proposed program to regulate commercial cannabis cultivation and manufacturing is available for review. The 60-day comment period closed as of 5 PM October 31, 2017. All comments will be addressed prior to the release of the Final EIR. A public hearing before the Planning Commission is expected in December and a Board of Supervisors hearing will follow in early 2018. Click here for more information regarding environmental review of the proposed cannabis regulations.

Request to be Notified

If you wish to be notified about upcoming events or news, please email: and request your name be added to our mailing list.

Cannabis Tax Information

Please note that if you are conducting any commercial sales of your cannabis or cannabis products, you MUST be paying your 7% tax on gross sales as of November 9, 2016. Failure to pay taxes could result in your being disqualified from obtaining a license in the future. Information on the Cannabis Business Tax and forms are available by clicking here:

It is advisable to maintain a copy of your paid tax form(s) with your registration email and number on the form for future reference.

State and federal taxes also apply and you are responsible for making those payments, in addition to your local tax responsibility.

Important Notification to Cannabis Community

Dear Cannabis Community,
We are aware that many of you are anxious and eager to purchase property and commence development of your proposed commercial cannabis cultivation sites. However, we want to remind you that the draft Commercial Cultivation of Medical Cannabis ordinance (proposed Santa Cruz County Code 7.128) and the draft Commercial Cannabis Manufacture Facilities ordinance (proposed Santa Cruz County Code 7.132) are undergoing environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, and are not yet final. It is expected that both ordinances will include language that prohibits the issuance of licenses where properties have active code violations. Thus, we are advising you and your business partners to stop all unpermitted land clearing, grading, vegetation removal, construction and similar development, as these activities may put your prospective license in jeopardy.

The draft environmental impact report is due out this summer for public review and comments. That will be your next chance to comment and influence the final legislation. The commercial cannabis cultivation and manufacture ordinances, including proposed zone districts where commercial cannabis will be permitted, minimum parcel sizes, and mitigation measures, are subject to change. The final version of these ordinances, in addition to long-standing County regulations, may significantly affect where and how your operations may take place, including building location, size, setbacks, road requirements, etc.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors views individual safety and natural resources protection issues as paramount, and alteration of creeks, streams, trees and other vegetation or wildlife habitat without prior review and approval will not be tolerated. Failing to obtain necessary permits at the appropriate time may require you to remediate/repair any land clearing/alteration violations before you can obtain permits and request a license.

Unfortunately, properties are being developed speculatively in support future of commercial cannabis operations without permission or necessary permits from the County. Unless exempt from permits, we will ensure each and every prospective licensee complies with the Santa Cruz County Code, in particular Title 13 and Title 16.

Your prospects for local cannabis licenses could be delayed or jeopardized if you or a previous owner are found to have violated the Santa Cruz County Code and/or any State or Federal laws by proceeding to prepare or develop your site for commercial cannabis without prior authorization and permits. No license will be issued until all unlawful site work related to cannabis cultivation or manufacturing is resolved, and depending on the severity and history of code violations, you may lose your right to a license altogether.

Cannabis related development permits are not being issued until the environmental review process is complete and the Board of Supervisors adopts a final version of the 7.128 commercial cultivation of cannabis ordinance.

If you have questions or concerns about how your activities may affect future licensing and compliance with the County Code, please contact our office and we would be happy to help. The new legislation, under review, to allow you to legally cultivate and manufacture cannabis in the County is coming. Please be patient and await final rules before you seek permits and break ground. We are here to help you through the process, but please be aware there is a process you must follow to obtain a license.