Finding viable real estate for cannabis use is unlike any other commercial property search…

Layers of complexity and consistent change make this a very challenging subject.

With 58 counties and 482 cities in the state of California, that is a lot of required reading you have probably not done!


We talk to people every day about how they can search for cannabis real estate locations throughout the U.S. and we want to help you find options that fit in your plans. This article will help you plan appropriately.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows the struggle of finding a property fit for your cannabis license application.

Did you know you have to own or lease the property throughout your entire license application? Here in San Diego, that is a 12-16 month turnaround time to get an application. Leading to a very long time to have a lease, if you don’t own the property, when may not even get the license…

This article will help explain the steps for finding a property before application so we can help save you time and frustration in your search!


Opportunity Awaits, But You Must Navigate the Process.

As of April, 2018 only 1 in 7 cities in California allowed for recreational cannabis dispensaries, 26 Counties had a cannabis ordinance, and roughly 213 cities allowed some sort of cannabis use.

This shows the amount of opportunity, but tread carefully to navigate the environment successfully and save a lot of wasted time and money.

Searching for a cannabis property is very nuanced.

A lot of the time the answer to any question you have in this industry is “it depends”.

Without networking and forming the right team with the right experience to enter this space, you could be blindsided with unexpected issues during the long-haul.

The extended timelines you have to deal with in order to get a use permit for a cannabis business can be discouraging enough, nevermind issues with taxes, banking, regulation changes, employees, mis-information, criminals and everything else in what was once a black market.


We often offer the advice of this blog on the phone to help people learn more and hope it helps you better understand how you can better be ready for the real estate hunt. Comment at the end or contact us with any questions.



4 Steps to Find the Right Location

If you are searching for a property where you can open a legal and licensed facility, we have found these are the general 4 steps a buyer goes through while selecting the right location.

The process takes a long time and you should be ready to repeat this list several times, if your original expected city does not support cannabis use. There are more and more locations approving new uses each month, and with the right research tools, you might be able to find a location that is in a hot area or green zone just before it is approved!


1. Study Regulations in Your Jurisdiction

Identify the green-zones where each city will allow/not allow cannabis use.

Each city comes up with their own cannabis regulations, usually borrowing from other cities nearby who already have established policies. With that being said each city has it’s own leeway to create different regulations to the city next door. For example, one city might have set backs between cannabis production facilities, and the neighboring city might not.

So it’s important to understand that each city is different and you have to be able to scour their regulations and translate that information info a framework to operate from.

The key things to look out for are the “green-zones” which is where they are allowing for the cannabis uses. Usually the planning department will also have a document available outlining the specific zoning for specific use types that will work.

Then you need to focus on the sensitive uses that the particular jurisdiction has in their ordinance. Some places have 600 ft to 1000 ft setbacks from schools, parks and youth facilities. Some places have setbacks between each facility.

Then you need to understand if the jurisdiction has a policy for caps on licenses. A cap is a limit on the amount of licenses they will give for a particular type of use. This one is always hard to understand, as it is inherently difficult to know who else is sending in applications in a particular area.


2. Contact an Agent

Find and locate an agent in your area that has experience with the regulations.

Once you have an understanding of the regulations you should be able to isolate where the green zones are, what the sensitive use setbacks are (if there are any), and any other little details you need to consider.

The next step is to use this information to find your location.

Contacting your local real estate agent and having them help you find a cannabis location when they don’t have any experience is probably not a good idea. You need to find and locate an agent in your area that has experience with the regulations and an understanding of what a good property is versus a bad one in the cannabis space.

If you need help locating an agent in your area you can reach out to us at CREC. Contact Us


3. Confirm Location Eligibility

This step cannot be skipped.

Once you think you’ve found the perfect location you have to make sure you clear this location with the local planning department.

The department’s job is to have you navigate this process and make sure that you are moving forward with a project that will actually work.

The last thing you want to do is lock down a property and pay deposits, without the confirmation that the local authorities sign off on it. Some jurisdictions allow you to book a pre-application meeting which can be beneficial to go deeper into what you’re trying to do with the location and can save you a lot of future wasted time in the process.


4. Lock Down Property for Application Process

With applications for a use permit taking 12+ months, you must be sure to structure your lease or purchase in a specific way.

It is best to setup your cannabis lease agreements to be able to get out of large financial commitments, just in case your project fails. You must be sure to protect your downside in this process.

At CREC we’ve presented many different structures to building owners for lease and purchase. We have been able to find different methods so that an operator can submit their application without large financial risk, and also allowing an owner to feel comfortable in working with them. It is about building trust and communication with the property owners.

Generally we like to segment our agreements at 3 month intervals to give an exit door to our clients in case their property comes up on unsolvable issues.

Once your location is locked down, you can start the process for your application. We will save the steps for submitting a sure fire winning application for another day…



Find a property you are interested in? If you want help locking down your location, CREC is here to help. Just reach out and let us know more about your property and goals and we can see if we can help you make it happen. Sign up as a buyer on our website