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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.

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.

The County has released proposed final ordinances to regulate non-retail commercial cannabis businesses including cultivation, manufacture and distribution and final public hearings are scheduled in February and March to allow the public to weigh in on the regulations. See below for more detail.

NEW: Proposed Final Ordinances Released Santa Cruz County Code (SCCC) Chapters 7.128 and Amendments to 13.10: Non-Retail Commercial Cannabis Businesses
Planning Commission Hearing March 14, 9 AM

Based upon the findings of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), recommended mitigation measures, and public comments received on the DEIR, the County has assembled proposed final draft ordinances for the consideration of the Board of Supervisors to regulate the commercial cannabis supply chain involving cultivation, manufacture and distribution:

SCCC Chapter 7.128 NON-RETAIL COMMERCIAL CANNABIS BUSINESSES establishes regulations for cannabis cultivation, manufacture and distribution.

SCCC Chapter 13.10 Zoning Ordinance Amendments for NON-RETAIL COMMERCIAL CANANBIS USES establishes land use permitting requirements and restrictions for cannabis cultivation, manufacture and distribution.

These two proposed final ordinances work in partnership to regulate the non-retail cannabis supply chain. While proposed SCCC 7.128 serves to establish operational restrictions and a cannabis licensing program for non-retail commercial cannabis businesses in Santa Cruz County, Amendments to SCCC 13.10 Zoning Ordinance have been proposed to establish zoning restrictions and land use permitting requirements for the industry. These partner ordinances are intended to be read in tandem to determine potential cannabis business site eligibility and operational restrictions for non-retail cannabis businesses.

Wednesday March 14th starting at approx. 9 AM, the Planning Commission will reconvene to consider the proposed ordinance amendments to Santa Cruz County Code Chapter 7.128, 13.10, 16.01 and related amendments to the Santa Cruz General Plan/Local Coastal Plan, regarding a Cannabis licensing, regulatory and land use program for cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and distribution activities. This item was continued from the February 28th hearing due to the large volume of new material and public comments received.

Direct link to proposed ordinances (dated February 28, 2018): 7.128, 13.10, BMOP.

Staff Report for March 14th hearing click HERE.

Agenda information and older staff documents and ordinance info may be found HERE.

If you have comments you would like to submit, attend hearing and you may speak during public comments OR email:

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Cannabis Tax Information

Please note that if you are conducting any commercial sales of your cannabis or cannabis products, you MUST be paying your 7% 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.