Can you get a cannabis license with a criminal record

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Can you get a cannabis license with a criminal record

Can you get a cannabis license with a criminal record?

Can you get a cannabis license with a criminal record

If you are interested in applying for a license to start a business in California’s new cannabis or marijuana industry, you may worry that a criminal past might hurt you from being approved for any of the following California cannabis licenses:

  • Mobile cannabis or marijuana business;
  • Marijuana dispensary;
  • Cannabis testing lab; 
  • Marijuana growing operation; or
  • Cannabis wholesale distribution.

The State of California must approve all cannabis licenses in Calfornia, and California requires that you pass a criminal background check before you can be granted a license.

What does the State of California state regarding what types of crimes may disqualify you for a CA Cannabis License?

The State of California only addresses this in a question and answer by stating, in question and answer format:

Q. If I have a criminal background will I be denied approval for a license?

A. According to the Act, the Bureau may deny a license to an applicant who has been convicted of an offense that is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the application is made.

What crimes are “substantially related” to the cannabis application?

The State doesn’t answer that question directly.  But for cannabis licenses, the State has an interest in two types of crimes – those that show 1. An inability to follow rules, or being unfit for the business; and 2. An avoidance of taxes or an inability to follow the rules.

1. An inability to follow rules, or being unfit for the business.

The inability to follow rules doesn’t just refer to selling marijuana during the time period that it was illegal in California.  The State of California usually, for many types of professional licenses, wants to protect consumers.  That means that they look especially seriously at “crimes of moral turpitude”.  A crime of moral turpitude, from the point of view of the state, means that you might be more likely to be dishonest. Those crimes may include the following types of convictions:

  • Convictions for fraud;
  • Convictions for theft of all types (shoplifting, burglary, embezzlement from an employer, robbery, or theft from customers)
  • Convictions for the types of crimes that are serious enough to be “shocking” to the reasonable person, such as the following: murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assault.

2. An avoidance of taxes or an inability to follow the rules

The State of California is highly interested in not only regulating this new industry but also in the tax income it is expected to bring.  As a result, any indication that you are behind on filing taxes or paying taxes, or any efforts to avoid taxation, are looked at as especially seriously by California’s license issuing authorities.

Can you get a cannabis license with a DUI?

A DUI is not a crime of moral turpitude like the above and does not involve taxes due to California.

As a result, a single DUI is unlikely to prevent someone from becoming licensed for Cannabis business purposes in California.  DUI is the number one crime in California, and so it is very common, and many applicants will have a DUI on their record.

More than one DUI, however, could indicate an alcohol or drug problem (especially if it was a Drug DUI or DUID), which for other types of licenses the state has looked especially closely at.  That doesn’t mean that the license may not be approved, but there may be a probationary period or a requirement that counseling or a program be completed.

Contact us for questions.

Contact us

If you are interested in having an attorney handle your cannabis license in California, then contact our firm today.  We can help.


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