California issues tips to improve local marijuana business licensing

California issues tips to improve local marijuana business licensing

A California auditor has released several recommendations for better marijuana business licensing processes and policies by local municipalities.

The analysis, conducted by California State Auditor Grant Parks, assessed cannabis permitting processes in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties as well as the municipalities of Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego and South Lake Tahoe.

The recommendations, first reported by The Sacramento Bee, were not tied to specific jurisdictions and intended to provide best practices for local regulators and governments.

To prevent favoritism, ensure fairness and reduce the risk of corruption, the audit recommended:

  • Blind scoring, or removing identifying applicant information, before review.
  • Creating an appeals process for denied permits.
  • Requiring reviewers to sign impartiality statements, asserting no personal or financial interests that might affect decisions.
  • Eliminating any authority of one person awarding or denying a license.

To help protect public health and safety, the auditor recommended:

  • Certifying background checks with letters or other documents.
  • Creating a tracking and documentation system for the application process with prompt notifications for applicants.
  • Withholding permit approvals until information is complete and verified.

To increase transparency, the audit recommended:

  • Publishing license-related ordinances, information and application forms on relevant public websites and cannabis-related fees.
  • Creating supplemental communications on permitting policies and procedures, including step-by-step guides and FAQs.
  • Developing an online application process.

According to the audit, the state’s Department of Cannabis Control in 2023 issued nearly 3,800 marijuana business licenses and processed more than 8,800 renewals.

Municipal optouts remain a perennial industry challenge, with nearly 240 local jurisdictions allowing at least one type of cannabis business operation.

That’s only 44% of cities and counties in the state.

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