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Our firm has been getting more attention recently from growers trying to obtain their local and California state permits and a California cannabis cultivation license to operate legally. What many operators first think is a quick and easy application process, or in some cases not needed at all, has become a long and painful game of waiting for responses from regulators, getting incomplete notices, and having enforcement officers show up on their property to issue a notice of violation.
Some of our recent clients reside in Humboldt County, California, which has the largest number of permits available for cannabis cultivation in the state. As one of the highest quantity and quality cannabis production centers in the world, Humboldt County first passed an ordinance at the end of 2016 allowing 2,376 businesses to apply for legal permits under California’s new cannabis licensing system. Of these applicants, only 237 have been approved, according to Humboldt County Planning Director John Ford, while the rest are considered interim, have incomplete applications, or have been withdrawn completely. In addition, those applicants still pursuing cannabis cultivation licenses from the state also must obtain environmental permits from the California Water Board and Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Some applicants we have worked with have completed a significant amount of work in preparing their applications while others need to do much more in preparing reports and plans about their property, business, and operations. Such items could include biological assessments, property surveys, cultural resources reports, road and utility assessments, water quality studies, grading plans, business and operations plans, and others.
To help our prospective clients make the right decisions about getting into the legal cannabis industry, we have developed this checklist:
- Research your property before purchasing or leasing. Not every property is suitable for a cannabis business. While it may appear to be on the surface and the property owner says that it is, we recommend having a planner and/or biologist visit the property to make sure your project will not stop because of a land use or environmental issue. While other professionals are needed to get your project to the finish line, upfront due diligence with the right professionals could save you thousands of dollars.
- Decide how much of your own time and money you want or can afford to spend… and how much of each. Many people have skill sets that can help them save significant dollars in getting through the cannabis permitting and licensing process, but it comes at the price of requiring more of your time.
- Choose qualified professionals who can get the job done. If you decide you want to seek help, you need professionals who can not only guide you in the right direction, but also complete your application with the appropriate level of detail that satisfies regulators. Our firm often works with clients who have already worked with other consultants who simply did not understand what was needed and ended up wasting their client’s time and money. For example, many attorneys who have modified their cannabis practices from criminal cases to permitting and compliance often do not understand California’s complicated environmental laws or how properties need to be reviewed by biologists, engineers, planners, and others before deciding to set up a cannabis business.
- Develop a business plan for how you are going to operate and sell your products. Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs get into cannabis thinking they will make lots of money without preparing a detailed plan for doing so. While they may be successful, the odds are there will be an issue that either costs them more money, stops their project, or both.
- Budget appropriately to get through the permitting and licensing process. Many clients who come to us have already spent money on trying to do so by themselves or with other consultants that ended up being wasted. The question we ask our clients upfront is “Do you think taking the low-cost approach to permitting and licensing will actually cost less or more by the time you are finished?”
For more information on how to set up your cannabis cultivation business the right way from the beginning, connect with us to set up an assessment.