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Who’s licensing California’s cannabis?

BCC, CDPH, CAL — so many acronyms for so many agencies! We know it’s easy to be confused about which agency is overseeing your business, so we’ve put together a quick-look reference guide to help.

California cannabis


The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) is the agency responsible for developing regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis within the state of California. They're in charge of licensing several different types of cannabis-related businesses, including retailers, distributors, testing labs and microbusinesses.

Distributors are those who procure and transport cannabis products between licensees, testing labs are businesses that tests products, and retailers are those who directly sell products to consumers. Microbusinesess include businesses that cultivate, manufacture and sell cannabis products from a fixed location.


The Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch (MCSB) is a division of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The MCSB is responsible for issuing licenses for manufacturers of cannabis products, including cannabis-infused edibles for medical and non-medical use. The term "manufacturers" not only encompasses businesses that produce these types of cannabis products, but also those that package or repackage them as well as those who label or relabel product containers.


CAL, or CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, is the regulatory department solely responsible for licensing cannabis cultivators. Cannabis cultivators include those involved in planting and growing cannabis as well as those who harvest, dry, cure, grade or trim the product. Licenses can be granted for indoor and outdoor cultivation sites as well as nurseries that deal with immature plants, seeds and other agricultural products. Additionally, the way you grow your plants, including indoor grow lights, mixed lights and outdoor light only, may require a different type of license.

This agency is also ultimately responsible for implementing the Track-and-Trace System to record the movement of cannabis through cultivation, distribution, manufacture, testing and retail sale. Track and Trace systems are well-known in the pharmaceutical and food industries – a single code applied to packaging can follow a product to its ultimate destination (the consumer) and it can cut down on counterfeiting as well as keeping tabs on movement through the system.

While the acronyms of the various agencies that oversee the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and retail sale of cannabis and its products may seem complicated at first, it helps to see their responsibilities clearly drawn out.

Learn how to choose the right cannabis business consultant for your small business. 

CCA can help small businesses keep track of which agencies provide licensing for California retail cannabis businesses. Contact us, and we'll make sure your business follows correct licensing procedures. 


Tiffany Conklin