In 2017, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance allowing limited mixed-light (greenhouse) commercial cannabis cultivation, including nursery cultivation, in the unincorporated areas of the County with a County license. The Board prohibited the issuance of any other commercial cannabis licenses, such as retail sales. Lawful delivery to a customer within the unincorporated area with a valid State license is not prohibited. Still, physical locations for delivery services may not be located within the unincorporated area.
In 2022, the County amended the ordinance to, among other things, allow the distribution of cannabis and cannabis products among licensees and other State license holders. However, no physical location for stand-alone distribution is permitted in the unincorporated County.
The County will only issue licenses in areas designated “agriculture” by the County General Plan or on land with documented agricultural use for at least three prior years. Potential locations must satisfy all the eligibility requirements of the County’s commercial cannabis ordinance, including setbacks from certain sensitive sites.
The ordinance includes comprehensive application requirements, including plans to address odor control and ventilation, noise, lighting, and hazardous materials. Failure to comply with the ordinance will result in fines and the possible suspension or revocation of the licensee’s right to engage in commercial cultivation activities within the unincorporated County.
The Planning and Building Department is responsible for issuing commercial cannabis licenses. Before license application processing, any building/structures and the land shall be free of any violations of State and local standards, including, without limitation, County building and land use regulations, County health and safety standards, and applicable fire standards.
The following is an overview of the application process for a commercial cannabis activity license in the unincorporated San Mateo County area. Applications for a license must be submitted electronically.
- Confirm that the parcel on which you wish to establish cultivation operations is in the unincorporated San Mateo County area and potentially qualifies for a license (e.g., property setbacks). See the Potential Locations for Commercial Cannabis Cultivation in Unincorporated SMC Maps to determine if the parcel is designated “Agriculture” in the County's General Plan and view the 600-foot Protected Sites Buffer. (Please note that the 600-foot buffer from residentially-designated parcels does not apply to nursery operations.) However, these maps are not exhaustive and are for estimation purposes only. You will need to ensure the parcel fully qualifies under the cannabis ordinance.
- Download the Application Checklist and begin gathering information.
- Download and complete the application forms: Application Form, Business Owner Details, Other Licensing Information, Acknowledgment Form and Indemnification Agreement. As part of the Application Form, you will be required to gather and prepare all required additional documents (e.g., surety bond) and plans (e.g., fire plan, waste management plan). The Department has prepared a Property Improvement Plan Requirements Checklist for your use.
- Submit the application and all required application documents to the Planning Counter at PlanningProjects@smcgov.org with the subject line "Cannabis License Application."
Upon complete submittal, the County will review and provide comments to the applicant. The Planning and Building Department will notify the applicant of any deficiencies. You will have 30 calendar days to address these deficiencies, questions, or comments. Failure to respond within 30 days will result in the license application being deemed abandoned.
County review of your application may result in required site improvements subject to separate permitting process(es) and fees in order to comply with land use, building code, and health and safety requirements.
Application Forms and Supporting Documents
- Commercial Cannabis Activity License Application Checklist
- Commercial Cannabis Activity License Application Process
- Commercial Cannabis Activity License Application
- Commercial Cannabis Activity License Business Owner Details
- Commercial Cannabis Activity License Other Licensing Information
- Commercial Cannabis Activity License Property Improvement Plan Requirements
- Commercial Cannabis Activity License Acknowledgment Form
- Commercial Cannabis Activity License Indemnification Agreement
- Request to Submit for Commercial Cannabis Activity License Application
License Fee Information
The Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution authorizing the following fee schedule for cannabis licenses:
- Commercial Cannabis Cultivation License fee = $6,574
- Commercial Cannabis Cultivation License Renewal/Amendment fee = $1,643
- Commercial Cannabis Cultivation License Termination of Operations fee = $200
The above are subject to additional fees as applicable.
For questions or comments about the licensing process, please contact CannabisInfo@smcgov.org.
- SMC [Cannabis] Decoded - Initiative to educate youth and young adults about the facts on cannabis use.
- Agricultural Designated Lands - View the General Plan Landuse layer on the County GIS application.
- Department of Cannabis Control - State agency licensing and regulating commercial cannabis cultivators in California.