13 Common Sense Rules for Navigating California’s Spooky Commercial Cannabis Licensing Process

13 Common Sense Rules for Navigating California’s Spooky Commercial Cannabis Licensing Process

Authored By: Silvia San Nicolas, Esq. New Game Compliance

California’s fluid regulatory climate and dual licensing framework has created one of the most challenging business environments participants have ever seen. Doesn’t matter if you are an attorney, an operator, an investor or a CPA …. it just doesn’t matter. The kicks are hard and the hits keep coming. Make no mistake, it’s a mess as California tries to close the gaps in its final issuance of the “permanent’ state regulations governing commercial cannabis activity buttressed by over 540 local jurisdictions with uniquely varying rules about all of it. It can try the patience and happy go lucky dispositions of anyone at any time. These reminders and common place sayings applied to California’s licensure process may make the journey a little more navigable for anyone daring to dive into this dungeon of dual licensing horror.

  1. California’s Final Regulations – There’s no such thing as final regulations. Even after the alleged final drop, the regulations will continue to change at the state level and local laws will change at the city and county level. Expect fluidity for a long time. See Rule 6 and Rule 3.

  1. You may get inconsistent direction from different people in the same or a different agency on cannabis requirements. Pick your battles, carefully. See Rule 6 and Rule 12.
  1. Be ready to pivot. Circumstances change unexpectedly and overnight. It’s also a small industry. Don’t burn bridges when you pivot. See Rule 1 and Rule 12.
  1. Trying a strategy that is designed around circumventing the rules wastes time and costs money. If your plan A requires a work around to the regulations or local ordinance rule, have back up plans in place and run parallel paths. Plan for Plan A to fail sooner rather than later. See Rule 6, Rule 7 and Rule 9.
  1. Time is money. Lost time is money. Factor it heavily into your licensure and business strategy. Make it a line item. See Rule 6.
  1. Plan for everything to take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expected. Level set expectations early on, set reserves, time things very conservatively. See Rule 5 and Rule 12.
  1. Expect dirty players. Stay above the fray. See Rule 3 and Rule 8.
  1. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. See Rule 9.
  1. When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging. Know the difference between this Rule and Rule 10 and Rule 5.
  1. When you are in too deep to get out, go deeper. Know the difference between this Rule and Rule 9, Rule 5 and Rule 11.
  1. Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. There is more BS floating around this industry than surplus weed in Oregon. See Rule 7.
  1. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. But if your squeak is a shriek, you won’t get anything. Be professional. Be courteous. Be persistent. But remember Rule 2.
  1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. See All Rules.


Cannabis Law Journal – Editorial Board Members

Editor – Sean Hocking

Author Bios

Matt Maurer – Minden Gross
Jeff Hergot – Wildboer Dellelce LLP

Costa Rica
Tim Morales – The Cannabis Industry Association Costa Rica

Elvin Rodríguez Fabilena


Julie Godard
Carl L Rowley -Thompson Coburn LLP

Jerry Chesler – Chesler Consulting

Ian Stewart – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Otis Felder – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Lance Rogers – Greenspoon Marder – San Diego
Jessica McElfresh -McElfresh Law – San Diego
Tracy Gallegos – Partner – Fox Rothschild

Adam Detsky – Knight Nicastro
Dave Rodman – Dave Rodman Law Group
Peter Fendel – CMR Real Estate Network
Nate Reed – CMR Real Estate Network

Matthew Ginder – Greenspoon Marder
David C. Kotler – Cohen Kotler

William Bogot – Fox Rothschild

Valerio Romano, Attorney – VGR Law Firm, PC

Neal Gidvani – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder
Phillip Silvestri – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder

Tracy Gallegos – Associate Fox Rothschild

New Jersey

Matthew G. Miller – MG Miller Intellectual Property Law LLC
Daniel T. McKillop – Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC

New York
Gregory J. Ryan, Esq. Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Tim Nolen Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

Paul Loney & Kristie Cromwell – Loney Law Group
William Stewart – Half Baked Labs

Andrew B. Sacks – Managing Partner Sacks Weston Diamond
William Roark – Principal Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin
Joshua Horn – Partner Fox Rothschild

Washington DC
Teddy Eynon – Partner Fox Rothschild