Felons and Cannabis Licenses

30+ years of combined legal cannabis and hemp business experience

Cannabis Licensure with a Previous Felony

While you may think that your felony conviction may stop you from applying for a cannabis license, think again! Depending on the felony type and your individual situation, you may qualify to open your very own commercial cannabis business in California. And in some jurisdictions, you may even qualify for additional perks.

Current State Law

California law states the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) may deny an application for a commercial cannabis license if the applicant, owner, or 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.” Here’s what counts under that definition:

  • 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
  • A felony conviction for drug trafficking with enhancements (i.e. additional years on term served based on the quantity of substance trafficked)

Importantly, the law also authorizes the DCC to make exceptions to this rule if it determines that the applicant, owner, or licensee is otherwise suitable to acquire a license, and that issuing the license to the individual would not compromise the public’s safety. This means folks with a felony conviction still have an opportunity to be able to present their case to the DCC. And it opens the door wide open for the DCC to issue licenses to people with cannabis-related felonies.

The State Application Process

In general, the application process is similar for everyone, regardless of the condition of their RAP sheet. Everyone must submit standard paperwork regarding the details of their business along with information on the owners and financial interest holders. All proposed owners will also have to submit a LiveScan, which will of course pick up on any past convictions.

If you do have a felony conviction, you can (but are not required to) submit a statement of rehabilitation. This is a document that you would author to the DCC about your rehabilitation process and include any information that you want the state to know when considering your suitability for licensure. You can include letters of support from references like employers, instructors, or professional counselors along with their contact information for the state to follow up with. If available, you can also submit an official certificate of rehabilitation – a court order that officially declares an individual has rehabilitated from a previous crime.

Once you have submitted all of the required documents, the DCC will review your full application and determine if you are qualified. They may ask for additional information to support any statements you submitted.

The Local Application Process

The application process differs at each local jurisdiction, but it is worth finding out if your city or county’s licensing program includes an equity component. Many jurisdictions have pledged to help communities and individuals disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs and offer benefits such as prioritized application review, technical assistance, or fee waivers to those applicants with a cannabis-related conviction. If your local licensing authority determines that you do qualify as an equity applicant, you could be eligible for state license fee waivers or grant funding.

Get Help from the Experts

Regardless of your history, the California licensing process can be time-consuming and complex due to differences in local licensing requirements and frequent changes in state law.

Schedule a consultation with one of our expert cannabis business lawyers to comprehensively discuss your unique situation and how to present the best application for a commercial cannabis license. They can increase the chances of attaining official approval at a local government and state levels by thoroughly helping you prepare legal forms and documents.

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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