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On Nov. 8, 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) to regulate personal and commercial non-medical, often called recreational, marijuana (cannabis) activity.

Proposition 64 passed by a statewide margin of 57 percent, with 63 percent support in San Mateo County and 65 percent support in San Carlos.

We have implemented local cannabis health and safety regulations to protect citizens and conform with new State regulations.


The City Council adopted new regulations effective December 2017.

Cannabis Business Tax:
Effective January 1, 2019, in compliance with the November 2018 statewide election results for Measure NN and subsequent adoption of Ordinance 1533 on December 10, 2018, we established a Cannabis Business Tax on any cannabis business of up to 10% of gross receipts.  


On Jan. 1, 2018, the State began issuing commercial licenses for medical and non-medical cannabis. In response to that development, most California cities and counties implemented local cannabis regulations to retain local control.

We have established a process for limited and well-regulated cannabis commercial activities in San Carlos. Retail sales are not permitted in the city. Manufacturing, distribution, testing, and some cultivation uses are permitted within designated zoning districts.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why did the City of San Carlos consider cannabis-related local health and safety policies?

In 2016, the State Legislature passed the Medical Cannabis Regulatory Safety Act and on Nov. 8, 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, the AUMA. As a result of the passage of these laws, we had to incorporate the medical and non-medical regulations for cannabis activities as described under each of the acts into local law.

2. What does Proposition 64, the AUMA, allow?

  • Adults 21 years of age and older may possess, transport and use up to 1 ounce of dried cannabis flowers and 8 grams of cannabis concentrates. This includes out-of-state visitors.
  • Adults 21 and older can grow up to six cannabis plants at their homes. Local jurisdictions can restrict outdoor cultivation, but cannot prohibit indoor cultivation of these six plants.
  • A State excise tax and cultivation tax are levied on commercial cannabis activities. Some of the tax revenue will be used for research, law enforcement, education and local grants. Local jurisdictions may impose additional taxes on commercial cannabis activities. Local grants will not be available to jurisdictions that ban commercial cannabis activities.

Click here for the full text of Proposition 64

3. Is there a difference between “cannabis” and “marijuana”?

No, they are the same. The origin of the term “marijuana” is unknown, whereas “cannabis” is the more technical Latin name for the same plant. Due to connotation sometimes associated with the term “marijuana,” the State legislature now prefers to use the term “cannabis” in its regulations.

4. What cannabis-related activities will be allowed in San Carlos?

Commercial cannabis businesses that will be licensed by the State include manufacturing, cultivation, distribution, retail sales and testing of the plants and related marijuana products. Regulations to permit manufacturing, distribution and testing in zoning districts where similar uses are already permitted have been established. At this time, retail sales are not permitted in San Carlos - this includes delivery services originating within San Carlos.

5. Where will permitted commercial cannabis businesses be allowed in San Carlos?

Cannabis-related business activities can be located in zones appropriate for the described use and only for manufacturing, distribution and testing at this time. For example, a cannabis manufacturer will be permitted in a zoning district that currently permits manufacturing uses. Our local ordinances clearly define zones that are allowable for commercial cannabis activity land use.

6. What are the City’s guidelines for permitting cannabis-related businesses?

Our goals for cannabis-related businesses are:

  • Ensure our regulations preserve the health and safety of the community.
  • Ensure compliance with cannabis-related State regulations.
  • Reduce and eliminate nuisance, crime and black-market cannabis sales.

7. When did the regulations take effect?

All cannabis-related regulations were in effect on Dec. 27, 2017, prior to Jan. 1, 2018, when the State began issuing licenses to cannabis businesses.

8. How can I stay informed about the process?

Receive updates about our cannabis regulations by signing up for eNotify.


Cannabis Zoning Districts
Zoning Clearance - Cannabis Uses
Application - Phase 1
Application - Phase 2
Commercial Cannabis Fee Schedule
Cannabis Land Use Definitions
Cannabis Land Use Regulations


At the direction of City Council, an online survey was conducted on Shape San Carlos for 10 days in April 2017 to collect public input on permitting retail cannabis businesses in San Carlos. The results are available below.


Nov. 13, 2017, City Council Meeting. Second reading of the ordinance.

Oct. 23, 2017, City Council Meeting Public Hearing. First reading of the ordinance.

Two Planning Commission meetings/study sessions.

  • August 21, 2017 Study Session.
  • Oct. 2, 2017 Public Hearing.

Three City Council study sessions were held regarding commercial cannabis:

  1. March 13, 2017.
  2. April 10, 2017.
  3. June 12, 2017.

Click here for video recordings of these meetings.


Martin Romo
Economic Development & Housing Manager
(650) 802-4267

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