Cannabis Knowledge & Insights

Guide to Chula Vista’s Commercial Cannabis Application

Chula Vista, California opened their cannabis licensing application window this week (January 14, 2019) and heads up – the window for submissions is very tight!

Retailers and cultivators must submit their application by 5:00 pm PST January 18, 2019. Distributors, manufacturers, or laboratories have until 5:00 pm PST January 25, 2019. Both applications are now online.

If you’re a cannabis distributor, manufacturer, or testing laboratory, you can find your application here.

If you’re a cannabis retailer or cultivator, you can find your application here.

Read more details below to see if you’re ready to apply.

Chula Vista Cannabis Licensing Process

Chula Vista has the following numbers of commercial cannabis licenses available:

  • 12 retailer licenses (storefront and non-storefront).
    • Three will be made available within each Council District
    • Within each Council District, there will be no more than 2 licenses available for storefront retailers.
    • Storefront retailer licenses are for adult-use/commercial cannabis applicants only (medical cannabis retailers may not apply).
    • For your reference, here is the zoning map as well as a guide to the municipal code planning and zoning.
  • 10 indoor cultivator licenses limited to a maximum of 20,000 square feet of canopy
  • An unlimited number of manufacturer, distributor, and laboratory licenses.

The city ordinances note that additional storefront retailer licenses may become available after July 1, 2020. To apply for one of these licenses, applicants must complete the required documentation in a two-phase process. Here’s what to expect.

Chula Vista Cannabis Licensing Phase One

Phase 1 must be completed for an applicant to move on to Phase 2. We are currently in Phase 1, which a quick turnaround time asked to complete the following documentation:

  1. The online application form (cannabis distributors, manufacturers, or testing laboratories: find your application here. Retailers or cultivators, find your application here.)
  2. A description of any/all Commercial Cannabis activity over the last five years, including the location of such activity and a copy of any permits, licenses, or other written forms of permission for such activity by a local or state government entity.
  3. Retail, manufacturing, and cultivation applicants must demonstrate that at least one manager has:
    1. A minimum of 12 consecutive months, within the last 5 years, as a manager with day-to-day oversight of a commercial cannabis business; or a minimum of 60 consecutive months, within the last 7 years, of a lawful pharmaceutical business licensed and regulated by a state or the federal government. T
    2. Similarly, that at least one owner has the following experience:
      1. a minimum of 12 consecutive months as an Owner of a Commercial
        Cannabis Business, within the previous 5 years, in a jurisdiction permitting such Commercial Cannabis Activity; or
      2. a minimum of 36 consecutive months as an owner with an aggregate ownership of 30% or more in a lawful alcohol or pharmaceutical business licensed and regulated by a state or the federal government; or
      3. a minimum of 36 consecutive months as an owner with an aggregate ownership interest of 30% or more in a lawful, properly licensed business with an average of 10 or more employees located within the City, thereby demonstrating a record of experience, familiarity and compliance with City rules and regulations.
  4. Documentation showing a minimum of $250,000 in Liquid Assets available to the applicant;
  5. A business plan. This business plan must have:
    1. A defined scope of planning and capital improvements
    2. The business’s estimated revenues and expenses
    3. A demonstrated ability to operate in a highly regulated industry
  6. An operating plan that demonstrates:
    1. The capacity to comply with State and local laws and regulations;
    2. Adequate staffing, security, and employee training, consumer education;
    3. Effective exterior and interior customer flow management, if applicable;
    4. Compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood;
    5. Community outreach;
    6. Environmental sustainability;
    7. Compliance with state and local laws and regulations.
  7. Each applicant, owner, and manager must submit fingerprints and other information required to complete a background check by the Chula Vista Police Department.
  8. Applicants with 10+ employees must provide a statement verifying they will enter a Labor Peace Agreement.
  9. Site identification, including an address, general description, and notarized statement from the landlord acknowledging site is available and compliant for Commercial Cannabis activity.

Once you complete and submit the full application and pay your application fees (see below), your application will be reviewed by a Chula Vista Finance Director. Then, you (and your team) will undergo the background check by the Chula Vista Police Department. You will be alerted to your application’s status by mail; if rejected, this notice will include the reasons for the rejection.

If you are approved, congratulations! You will be eligible to move on to Phase 2. Those approved under Phase 1 will have six months to complete the Phase 2 application process. You may apply for an extension under certain circumstances, but we recommend complying with the deadline as much as possible.

Quick note on retail licenses: if there are more than 12 retailers deemed “qualified” under phase one, a merit-based system established by the City shall be used to determine which of the qualified Applicants is invited to submit a Phase Two Application. Merit-based scoring was outlined by the city on January 9: here’s how it works.

All qualified retailer applications will be scored in the following four categories with the maximum points possible in each category as follows:

a. Experience/Qualifications of the business owner/team (150 points)

b. Liquid Assets (50 points)

c. Business Plan (150 points)

d. Operating Plan (150 points)

The highest initially scored applications will undergo an additional interview process to further assess each scored category.

Chula Vista Cannabis Licensing Phase Two

If you make it to Phase 2, here’s what you will be asked to submit (in writing) in the second application.

  1. Proposed premises location and description, including
    1. Diagrams and information demonstrating your compliance with the City ordinance, zoning laws, state laws, etc.
    2. The premises’ owner fingerprints, background check identification, etc.
    3. Site control agreements
    4. Emergency action and fire prevention plan (with specific requirements – be sure to read the ordinance carefully and include all details)
    5. Security plan (with specific requirements – be sure to read the ordinance carefully and include all details)
  2. Application fee (see below)
  3. Required land use approvals from the City and/or other government agencies

Documents submitted under Phase 2 will be reviewed by Chula Vista’s Development Services Director, Fire Chief, and/or Police Chief. Once your Phase 2 application is approved, your business will be issued a Conditional City approval valid for 6 months. During these months, you must open your Commercial Cannabis business; if you do not do so, your conditional permit will be void and you will need to start from square one.  

Chula Vista Cannabis Application Fees

The following fees apply to the Chula Vista cannabis application process.

Phase 1 fees:

  • Application phase 1A “Application Process Development” $2,683
  • Application phase 1B “Application Evaluation and Consensus Review” $2,065
  • Application phase 1C “Interview and Second Ranking” $868
  • Application phase 1D “Final Application Review Selection” $433

Additional fees:

  • Provisional Background Review $300
  • Secondary Background Review $347
  • Zoning Verification Letter $183
  • Appeal Fee $3,217

You should also be aware that in passing Measure Q, the City Council of Chula Vista also set a cannabis business tax range of $5-$25 per square foot of canopy on cannabis cultivators and 5%-15% of gross receipts on all other cannabis businesses. Those taxes go into effect on January 15, 2019.

If you wish to submit a strong Phase 1 application, get in touch with our experts who can help answer any questions you have before this short window closes!