Skip to main content

If you have asked yourself how to start a legal grow op in California and not found a good answer, this is it for you.

Getting a legal grow op going in California should not be too hard, provided that you have the right information at hand. Of course, you will also need to have enough moolah to get this going. On average we are looking at about $17/ square foot for an outdoor grow and $50/ square foot for an indoor operation.

There are adequate avenues for funding a legal grow op, but that is a discussion for a later date. For now, let’s dissect what it entails to set up a canopy as far as the operational side is concerned. Just like with most other things, an open mind comes in handy because surprises are not a rarity. But with the information provided below you should be able to handle it.

Who Can Start A Grow Op In California?

Pretty much anyone with the desire to grow cannabis can start a grow op. However, there are certain requirements that are necessary before this can happen. The first thing to do is to apply for a license from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). This department is responsible for issuing licenses for cannabis cultivation and tacking the movement of cannabis through the distribution chain. The application process is available online.

On the website you will be able to find training videos on how to make the application. You will also be required to fill out pest management and waste disposal forms. A criminal disclosure report will be required of you.

The CDFA also provides a reference guide for creating a cannabis cultivation plan. Note that this plan is a requirement for applying for the cultivation license. The guide stipulates all that is required legally to setup a commercial cannabis growing operation. Much of what is required is discussed in the segments below.

The cities and counties set local laws on licensing for cannabis growing. You will need to check your local laws before you venture out.

We recommend taking a master class in cannabis cultivation before undertaking this endeavor. Even if you have done this before there is always something new that you can learn to boost your prowess.

With that, let’s get started.

California was the pioneer of legal cannabis over 20 years ago. However, it took several years before residents of the golden state could finally begin to cultivate their own cannabis. 2016 opened the door for residents to be able to open pretty much any kind of cannabis business including retail marijuana dispensaries, extraction, transportation, testing, distribution, and commercial grow facilities.

The Forbes recently reported that California is the world’s largest pot market. This means that opportunities for business abound.

Cannabis License Requirements

Licensing is a rigorous process that will require adequate preparation. It will involve four key stages:

  • Initial application to determine eligibility
  • First ranking
  • Second ranking
  • Meeting with city council for final selection

Cannabis license applicants will need to undergo a criminal background check by the California City Police Department before they can be considered as eligible. Six applications are reviewed in a day hence it is important to book an appointment. A non- refundable fee of $78 is payable for this background check and it is paid on site. 

License applicants are also required to provide a zoning verification letter to the City Hall planning division. This takes about 2 weeks and should cost $250.

Licensing Tiers

Marijuana growing licenses are tiered based on size. The tiers are as follows:

TIER 1Up to 5,000 sq. ft. of canopy OR up to 50 mature plants on non-contiguous plotsLicense 1: Specialty Outdoor
  License 1A: Specialty Indoor
  License 1B: Specialty Mixed-Light
TIER 2Between 5,001 and 10,000 sq. ft. of canopyLicense 2: Small Outdoor
  License 2A: Small Indoor
  License 2B: Small Mixed-Light
TIER 3Between 10,001 sq. ft. to one acre of canopyLicense 3: Outdoor
 These licenses are limited in their access to vertical integrationLicense 3A: Indoor
  License 3B: Mixed Light
TIER 4 Nursery

Costs Involved in Setting Up A Legal Grow Op In California

Many people ask whether it is expensive to set up a grow op in California, or in any other state for that matter.

Well, this depends on a number of factors such as the size of the operation and whether this is being done indoors or outdoors. Cultivating cannabis in a greenhouse is bound to cost you more as compared to doing this out in the open. However, an indoor grow will afford you better control of growing conditions and of course better yields eventually. You can also grow cannabis all year round in an indoor environment. This kind of weed will fetch a better price.

An Indoor operation can cost you as much as $75/square foot while an outdoor grow should cost approximately $10-$17/square foot. A combination of the two costs about $50/ square foot.

The cost of an indoor canopy is escalated by factors such as controlled lighting. Ventilation, humidity, and temperature. An outdoor operation will enjoy natural elements such as sunshine.

Space Considerations for a Cannabis Grow Op

Space considerations will vary based on the amount of cannabis that you wish to produce. This will also be affected by the cannabis strains that you opt for since some strains will require more space than others. While sativas are likely to grow tall and thin, indicas will be short and stout.

The other thing to note is that getting cultivation space for cannabis can be a tricky affair. Even in states where cannabis has been legalized, such as California, landlords may not be too eager to rent out space to cannabis growers. And when they do, they are likely to charge handsomely.

Price per square foot will vary based on location and competition. Some sources cite a rough estimate of $17/ square foot.

Grow Lights For A Cannabis Grow Op

Artificial grow lights are needed for an indoor cannabis grow op. There are tons of lighting options that you can choose from. For a better understanding of cannabis grow light you can read our full article by clicking this link.

LED grow lights come highly recommended due to their efficiency and productivity. HID grow lights is however the gold standard for a commercial grow operation.

At the end of the day the size of your canopy as well as how deep your pockets can go will determine the kind of lights that you will acquire.

Consider Temperature Control and Ventilation

Grow lights produce heat and hence temperature will need to be regulated in an indoor canopy. Fans are essential for circulating air and regulating humidity and temperature in the grow op. They may cost as much as $100 per fan.

Humidifiers are another important consideration if the cannabis plants are to remain mold- free.

Consider the Growing Medium

If you are growing your cannabis outdoors then soil is likely to be your ideal growth medium. However, if you are doing this in an indoor setup, then you will have several options to choose from. A hydroponic system will have several benefits but may be expensive to set up.

There are over 300,000 jobs in the cannabis industry. CTU trained me for one of them!

marijuana extraction course - Johanna Rose
Makes $24.50 @ THC +

We have a detailed guide on how to grow marijuana using a hydroponic system that you can access by clicking this link.

You should also consider the nutrients that are need to maximize yields. They may vary based on the stage of the growth cycle. The soil needs to be assessed to determine the nutrients that need to be supplemented.

Some of the nutrients needed for your canopy include macro nutrients such as phosphorous, nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Micro nutrients include zinc, copper, sulfur, boron, and iron. Oher nutrients needed include substrates like coco coir and hydroponic nutrients.

We have created a detailed guide on marijuana nutrients for your canopy that you can access by clicking this link.

Do I Need a Business Plan to Cultivate Cannabis?

Yes, you will need to have an elaborate business plan for your cannabis business if you are to succeed in this venture. This should cover critical areas such as funding, cash flow, daily operations, target market, completion, and management team.

Enroll Now