Your Ultimate Guide To Becoming Licensed to Grow Weed In the Top 4 States

May 19, 2021 | Cannabis Laws & News, Small Cannabis Business

As legalization and consumption expand across the country, more cultivators are transforming their passions into a profession. Especially considering a cultural shift in acceptance, rise in sales, and beneficial social equity programs now in place.

What no one tells you, is how intimidating the cannabis cultivation business application process can be. So, to simplify the steps – our ultimate guide breaks down just how to apply for a cannabis cultivation license in 4 of the biggest growing markets.

But first, why?

Whether you’re a longtime enthusiast or an up-and-coming canna-advocate, there’s a long list of reasons why cannabis cultivation business applications are on the rise.

For one, states are finally making reparations towards social equity and justice reform. This means, if you qualify – there’s never been more of an opportunity to become involved, and incentivized for doing so, than now.

Secondly, demand is high and only continues to grow. In 2020 alone, cannabis sales across the country increased by 67%. And now, 12% of Americans report as active cannabis users. But for some, it may just be all about the Benjamins. In that case, one statistic to keep in mind is that the US recreational and medical market sales are forecasted to reach $45 billion by 2025.

Last but not least, legalization is only increasing. Just this year New York, and the first-ever southern state Virginia, both legalized adult use. Now, 36 states have medical marijuana programs while recreational states grew to 16 total states in 2021.

Looking towards the future, federal legalization is the only logical next step. In that case, it’s a time where the motto ‘strike while the iron is hot’ couldn’t make more sense.

Step 1: Get pre-approval

If you’re serious about making the pivot into pot and are on the move to starting the cannabis cultivation business application process – where should you start? Pre-qualification comes first. Most states have now implemented pre-approval stages to their standard cultivation license applications to save processing time and grief for applicants and agencies alike.

Pre-approval qualifications vary state-to-state but are typically a screening process to ensure licensees meet the basic requirements. If you’re not pre-approved already, common pre-qualification requirements across the US include:

  • Background checks of applicants, and supplemental applicants
  • Non-refundable application fees
  • Gathering of business and personal information for verification purposes.

Step 2: Now what? State-by-State

Although pre-qualification might seem like a process in itself, after approval is where the bulk of the work will take place. To complete your application, regardless of your state, you’ll need your cannabis cultivation location at the very least. This means you’ll need to do your research first on where you can set up shop. Key factors to keep in mind are:

  • Local ordinances and municipality bans
  • Zoning, and restrictions near schools, etc.
  • A building that can withstand the business you’ll be operating and meets any facility layout requirements (proper drainage, security capabilities, equipment, or access thereto, etc.)
  • Compiling a comprehensive SOP not only for licensing success, but for the future growth and profit of your cannabis cultivation business

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of cannabis cultivation business applications for 4 of the biggest marijuana markets in the US.


As one of the longest-standing medical and adult-use markets, it’s no surprise that California has a streamlined cannabis cultivation business application process with a website chock-full of helpful resources to help applicants along the way. The California CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing website even has an entire e-learning section with video tutorials on how to navigate the site and process.

To summarize what’s required before applying, below is the application checklist of documents to gather:

  1. A city, county, or local jurisdiction permit
  2. Right of ownership, lease, or mortgage
  3. Business documents filed at the state’s Secretary of State
  4. California State Water Resources Control Board permits and verification of your water source
  5. California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 1602 permit or a waiver
  6. California Department of Toxic Substances Control’s hazardous materials record search
  7. California Department of Tax and Fee Administration’s seller’s permit
  8. Labor peace agreement if you’ll have more than 20 employees
  9. Surety bond valued at $5,000
  10. California Department of Justice fingerprinting

Each document is detailed further in the application attachment guide, found here. Once you’re ready you’ll submit your application online, or go old-school with paper forms.


Oregon is one state that took the cannabis cultivation business application process into its own hands, by producing a handy guide to follow. The comprehensive guide outlines what types of licenses you can apply for, along with step-by-step information on developing and operating a business within the state guidelines. Even more, Oregon provides a flowchart of application success to all applicants.

Below is a summary of the steps, the state advises to take and requires for licensing:

  1. Develop your business
    • Planning, financing, and registering with the Secretary of State
  2. Ensure Land Use Planning & Zoning Compliance
  3. Ensure Workplace Safety via Oregon OSHA compliance for cannabis cultivation
  4. Complete Oregon Marijuana Tax Registration
  5. Secure Marijuana Worker Permits

Once you’re ready to apply, the state’s online system accepts all required documents and provides management of the steps along the way.

A unique requirement to be aware of when submitting your application is a Land Use Compatibility Statement. This confirms that your application meets the requirements of local ordinances and zoning. If it doesn’t, your application will be denied in the second step of the process.


Washington state residents looking to make their growing dreams come true have some time to put their plan into action. As the state isn’t accepting any new cannabis cultivation or what they call ‘producer’ licenses, at this time.

To know when the window is re-opened for new applications, the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board advises residents to sign up for their communication alerts. In the meantime, there are a few steps you can take to prepare:

  1. Compile a detailed business plan, as the Washington application requires protocols for the following:
    • Security
    • Traceability
    • Employee qualifications and training
    • Destruction of waste products
    • Transportation of product to retailer, packager, and/or processor
    • Testing procedures and protocol
  2. Find and secure a location
    • Must meet local zoning and ordinances, and the following requirements:
      • For indoor production, cannabis cultivation must be contained within a fully enclosed, secure indoor facility or greenhouse with rigid walls, a roof, and doors.
      • For outdoor production, cannabis cultivation can occur may grow cannabis in “non-rigid greenhouses, other structures, or an expanse of open or clear ground fully enclosed by a physical barrier”. Outdoor cannabis cultivation must also be contained by a ‘slight obscure wall’ or fence at least 8 feet in height.
  3. Secure financing and requirements for licensing application including:
    • Criminal background checks on financiers, owners, and spouses
    • Government-issued identification for all financiers, owners, and spouses
    • A business financial statement accounting for all investments
    • Bank statements and recent tax returns


After pre-qualification in Michigan, you’ll move onto the marijuana facility licensing application. Here, you’ll provide personal information similar to the pre-qualification phase, along with additional specifics on your cannabis cultivation business. Most importantly, are details on the location of where you plan to grow and meeting and ensuring it meets local ordinances and zoning regulations.

To complete Michigan’s cannabis cultivation license application successfully, here are the recommended steps to follow:

  1. Secure your location in a municipality that allows cultivation businesses
  2. Obtain necessary permits per the municipality
  3. Complete your facility buildout per state and local requirements.
  4. Compile required documents for the cannabis business application including:
    • business specifications (SOP), proof of financial responsibility, municipality information, and general employee information
      • Proof of financial responsibility also requires capitalization requirement proof via a CPA Attestation.
  5. Must pass a Bureau of Fire Services (BFS) plan review

From there, you’ll apply online (or on paper) following the steps outlined for Class A Marijuana Growers, Class B Marijuana Growers, or Class C Marijuana Growers.

While having a general outline of the steps to take, and available resources on hand, is a great start…others may choose to also budget for professional review or assistance.

In today’s expanding market, many potential licensees are hiring cannabis attorneys and cannabis consultants to improve their chances of application success. By doing so, cultivators have an insider’s experience and perspective on what is or isn’t typically approved by the state, or items that could raise unnecessary red flags.

Step by Step to Success

Now that you have a better idea of how to complete the cannabis cultivation license process, you can tackle the application process with peace of mind. While the steps might seem cumbersome, keeping your eyes on the prize is key.

Once successfully with the cannabis cultivation business application process, you’ll have achieved the dream of growing the plant you love, professionally and for profit.

About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Courtney Trzos</a>

Courtney Trzos

To Courtney, it’s always 420 somewhere… After attending Michigan State University and working in communications for over 10 years, she took her passion for cannabis, professionally. In 2017, Courtney began freelancing as a writer for cannabis brands across the globe, promoting the therapeutic and recreational use of the plant, while helping her partner cultivate crops full-time, and learning more about the industry from a seed-to-sale perspective. Get in touch with her and follow her journey at