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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. The State’s Emergency Regulations, SB 94, have allowed the Cannabis Licensing Office to regulate both medical and recreational commercial cannabis businesses under the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA).

Read more about the approved legislation throughout the website on how unincorporated Santa Cruz County regulates the cannabis supply chain: cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and retail.

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. There are 12 dispensaries currently licensed. No new dispensaries are being licensed at this time. For more information click here.

Commissioned an Environmental Impact Report to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of non-retail commercial cannabis businesses in the unincorporated County of Santa Cruz. Public comments were received during a 60-day comment period which ended on October 31, 2017. All comments were considered and final regulations were drafted based upon public and agency comments. Click here for more information regarding environmental review of the proposed cannabis regulations.

On May 8th, the County Board of Supervisors adopted final ordinances to regulate non-retail commercial cannabis businesses including cultivation, manufacture and distribution. The Cannabis Licensing Office will provide application materials in June and will begin accepting applications after June 8th. The process for accepting and processing applications will be clarified in the coming weeks on this website.


May 8, 2018:

On Tuesday May 8, 2018, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors adopted the Non-Retail Commercial Cannabis Business ordinances, formally adopting a Cannabis Licensing Program to completely regulate the cannabis supply chain: cultivation, manufacture and distribution. In 30 days, on June 8th 2018, the ordinances will go into effect. After this date, the Cannabis Licensing Office (CLO) will begin to distribute application materials and invite applicants to start applying for licensure. We are not currently accepting applications.

APPROVED Regulations: 7.128, 13.10, Best Management and Operational Practices Plan.

You will need to read all three documents to understand eligibility and operational requirements for your planned facility.

To see the regulations that are now APPROVED and understand eligibility and operational requirements, click on this link and review Attachment 1, 2, 3, and 4. Attachments 2-4 are key to assessing prospective license eligibility.

The CLO thanks all those who participated in this important public process to regulate the cannabis supply chain.

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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 cannabis business 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,
The County of Santa Cruz is working towards the adoption of final non-retail commercial cannabis business ordinances (proposed Santa Cruz County Code Chapters 7.128 and Amendments to 13.10). When the Board of Supervisors has adopted final ordinances, the Cannabis Licensing Office will start accepting applications.

If any land use/building permits are needed (building construction, grading, vegetation removal, etc.) to accomplish your development goals and they are associated with cannabis business, you cannot initiate Planning permits at this time. Final rulemaking is not yet complete and therefore the County Planning Department is unable to take in or process applications. Those who misrepresent their development plans and proceed with permitting may discover their development plans do not conform to final cannabis ordinance requirements, and may be disqualified indefinitely from obtaining cannabis business licenses. All cannabis businesses are strongly advised wait until clear direction has been given by the Board of Supervisors and proposed cannabis licensing ordinances have been adopted.

Unfortunately, there have been cases where properties have been 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.

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.