April 4, 2022

At Manzuri Law, our skilled cannabis business law attorneys in California have helped hundreds of entrepreneurs navigate the complex federal, state, and local regulatory framework necessary to successfully apply for licenses, including those who have criminal records.

The individual circumstances surrounding the charges, and the type of conviction, weigh heavily on a person’s eligibility to open and operate a commercial cannabis business in California.

Below we examine eligibility of Owners of a California cannabis business who also have a past criminal conviction. Here is what our fellow residents need to know about their potential eligibility.

What is the California State Law Regarding Cannabis Businesses & Criminal Records?

California law states the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) may deny an application for a commercial cannabis license if the Applicant, one if its “Owners”, or the Licensee has been convicted of an offense that is “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the application is made.”

That includes:

  • A violent felony conviction,
  • A serious felony conviction,
  • A felony conviction involving fraud, deceit, or embezzlement,
  • A felony conviction involving minors and trafficking of controlled substances, or
  • A felony conviction for drug trafficking with enhancements (i.e., additional years on term served based on the quantity of substance trafficked).

If you are currently facing felony charges in California, or have already been convicted of a crime that you believe will jeopardize your cannabis business license application, contact our dedicated cannabis defense attorneys today to learn more about your legal options.

Will DCC Make Exceptions for Certain Cannabis License Applicants with Criminal Records?

California laws authorize the DCC to make exceptions to the licensing eligibility rule if the Department determines both that the applicant is otherwise suitable to acquire a license, and that issuing the license to the individual would not compromise the public’s safety.

If you have been convicted of a crime that jeopardizes your cannabis licensing eligibility, you may have an opportunity to present your case to the DCC. We can help you present the necessary facts and supporting documents to help with both the state and local application requirements.

What Can I Expect from the California Cannabis Business License Application Process?

The California cannabis business license application process is similar for everyone, regardless of their criminal history.

Interested parties must submit a robust set of documents detailing the specifics of their business operations and procedures. (See the Application Checklist here). This includes in-depth financial disclosures and all contact information for financial interest holders and Owners.

All proposed cannabis business Owners must also submit a Live Scan, which captures electronically transmitted fingerprint images and related information in order to process the requests for the Applicant’s criminal record check.

If you are anticipating resistance from DCC because of your criminal history, we suggest you proactively submit a statement of rehabilitation with your application.

That may include:

  • A written document that includes any additional information that you want the State to consider when weighing your suitability for licensure,
  • Letters of support and professional references from employers, instructors, or counselors, including contact information for any follow-up inquiries.
  • An official certificate of rehabilitation supplied by a California court declaring that the individual has been rehabilitated from a previous conviction.

Once you have submitted all of the required documents, the DCC will review your full application and determine if you are qualified to move forward with the licensing process.

Do Local Cannabis Business License Applications and California Have Different Requirements?

Depending on where your prospective California cannabis business will be located, each local jurisdiction has a different application process.

This process is dictated by the city and/or county where the business will exist and may include a social equity component.

Social Equity applications are often granted prioritized application review, technical assistance, state license fee waivers, and/or grant funding

Throughout America and the state of California, the definition of what qualifies for Social Equity Applicant differs greatly but often includes some element favoring a cannabis-related conviction or arrest.

Contact Manzuri Law to Discuss Your California Cannabis License Application Today

Regardless of your criminal history, because of the dual licensing process, differing requirements for the Local and State agencies and frequent changes to regulations, this application process is both time consuming, complex and on-going.

We encourage anyone who wants to operate a cannabis business efficiently and legally to schedule a consultation online or call our office 310.912.2960.

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.

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