Contra Costa County officials have begun a process to narrow down select commercial cannabis businesses interested in growing in unincorporated areas.

All prospective cannabis cultivators, manufacturers in agricultural zoning districts or storefront retailers are invited to participate in the multi-step application process that begins with submitting a letter of intent to the county with basic information about the business.

The number of commercial-cultivation businesses in unincorporated parts of the county will be capped at 10, with the number of storefront retailers limited to four. Only two cannabis-manufacturing businesses will be allowed in unincorporated agricultural zoning districts.

No other cannabis-related businesses that adhere to zoning ordinances, such as delivery-only retailers, cannabis manufacturing businesses not located in agricultural zoning districts, cannabis testing laboratories and distribution businesses, will be capped, and all are allowed to submit land-use applications without going through the multi-step application process.

“We are opening a new door,” said Supervisor Federal Glover about the application process. “We want to do it right.”

The selection process comes on the heels of the 2016 passage of California Proposition 64, which legalized, under state law, recreational marijuana for people 21 and older and established sales and cultivation taxes. Unincorporated county voters also approved Measure R in November, clearing the way for commercial marijuana businesses to be taxed up to $7 per canopy square foot for cultivation and up to 4 percent gross receipts for all other marijuana businesses to fund general county expenses. The taxes are expected to generate $1.7 to $4.4 million annually, to be used for such things as public safety, health services and environmental protection.

“We are going to get it (the selection process) right, because it’s our only chance for the process,” said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.

Individuals invited to submit full proposals should include information about business owner qualifications, business location, business, operating and security plans, sustainability, odor control and a summary of community or economic benefits. That information will be used in the final judging process.

“We are trying to do our best to have as much information (about the application process) online as possible, so people don’t go down the path without knowing if they can or cannot do something,” said Contra Costa County Principal Planner Ruben Hernandez.

A handful of county residents, including some in East County, indicated during a recent board meeting that they look forward to going through the process.

“I want to work here, I have been working in this industry, I have a passion for this industry and the medical and healing potential of this industry,” said lifelong county resident Patrick Irion.

Letter of intent documents should be submitted by 4 p.m. on April 4, include a $500 processing fee, convey all required information, adhere to the prospective zoning ordinances and include evidence of a secured location for the proposed business. If accepted, the submitters will be invited to turn in a full business proposal by late June, which county staff will evaluate, rank and score from July through September. The scoring panel will forward recommendations to the full county board of supervisors in September or October, at which time the board will decide which businesses are invited to apply for land-use permits.

For complete step-by-step instructions on the permitting process, visit