City of Indio’s Application Process for a Storefront Retail Cannabis Business Permit.

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The City of Indio (“Indio” or “the City”), the largest city in the Coachella Valley, and home to the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals, recently announced a permitting process for storefront cannabis retail businesses. 

Between September 1, 2022 and October 6, 2022, interested parties may submit Cannabis Business Permit applications for cannabis storefront retail businesses operating within the city boundaries.

A Legislative Timeline of Cannabis Business Permitting in Indio 

In 2017, soon after The Medical and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (“MAUCRSA”) was signed into law,  the Indio City Council adopted Ordinance No. 1726, establishing Sections 159.565 through 159.568 of the Indio Municipal Code, which prohibited commercial cannabis activity in the City of Indio. 

After several years of local prohibition, on May 18, 2022, the City of Indio adopted Ordinance No. 1779 amending Chapter 159 (zoning regulations) of the Indio Municipal Code to allow Cannabis Storefront Retailer and Cannabis Non-Storefront Retail Businesses in commercial land use districts with some exceptions. The City Council also adopted Ordinance No. 1780 on May 18, 2022, adding a new Chapter 123 entitled cannabis business activities to Title XI, Business Regulations, of the Indio Municipal Code to regulate commercial cannabis uses in the City.

On July 20, 2022, the Indio City Council Adopted Resolution No. 10313 establishing a limit of 5 Storefront Retail Business Program Permits to be issued citywide. On the same date, the Indio City Council also adopted Resolution No. 10314 establishing the procedure guidelines and review criteria that govern the application and selection process for Cannabis Storefront Retail Business Permits.

In the future, the City of Indio will separately announce procedures governing cannabis non-storefront retail businesses.

City of Indio Cannabis Business Permit Application Requirements 

Storefront retail Cannabis Business Permit applicants must submit all required application materials at the same time through the City’s online portal which can be found on the City’s website. All application materials must be in PDF format and submitted in the order prescribed on page four (4) of the City’s Application Procedures Guidelines

The application package must include all of the following documents with original signatures on each document (where applicable). 

  1. Cannabis Business Permit Application form; 
  2. Financial Responsibility, Indemnity and Consent to Inspection Terms Agreement; 
  3. Agreement on Limitations of City’s Liability and Indemnification to City; 
  4. Paid Application fee and Background Check fee(s); 
  5. Property Owner Consent/Landlord Affidavit; 
  6. Proof of Insurance or Letter of Insurability from the Insurance Company; 
  7. Proof of Capitalization; 
  8. Zoning Verification Letter;
  9. Responses to Evaluation Criteria (including a Business Plan, Labor and Employment Plan, Security Plan, Qualification of Owner, Neighborhood Compatibility Plan, Community Benefits and Investments Plan, and Proposed Site Plan – See Appendix A of the City’s Application Procedures Guidelines for More Details).

For more information about the forms, documents, and information that must be submitted as a part of the application, see the resources on the City’s cannabis webpage

A Competitive Application Process

Given that the City is limited to issuing a maximum of five (5) storefront retail business permits during this permitting phase, the application process itself is a competitive one. This means that Cannabis Business Permit applications submitted in accordance with City regulations will be evaluated and scored to determine which applicants are eligible to move forward through the permitting process and ultimately which applicants, if any, will be awarded a storefront retail Cannabis Business Permit. As noted on page six (6) of the City’s Application Procedures Guidelines, the application process is made up of the following  four (4)  phases. 

  • Phase I: Determination of Eligibility
  • Phase II: Application Evaluation and Review 
  • Phase III: Committee Interviews
  • Phase IV: City Council Interviews and Final Decision

Phase I of Indio’s Storefront Retail Cannabis Business Permit Application

Because the application process is competitive, it is imperative that all applicants submit complete applications that not only contain all required documents but also all required information. 

As noted in on page six (6) of the City’s Application Procedures Guidelines, no points will be awarded during Phase I. To progress to Phase II, an applicant must simply submit a complete application that shows, among other things, that the applicant, all relevant parties, and the proposed operating location are eligible to participate in the application process. (See IMC Chapter 123.12 for more details about the City’s eligibility requirements). 

Phase II of the Cannabis Business Permit Application

Phase II is the first phase in which points will be awarded. During Phase II, the City’s consultant will evaluate and score each applicant’s business plan, labor and employment plan, and security plan. Each plan will be scored out of a maximum 400 points, for a total of 1,200 points, and only those applicants who score a minimum of 90% (1,080/1,200 total points) or higher will be eligible to advance to Phase III. 

Phase III of the Cannabis Business Permit Application

During Phase III, a Staff Selection Committee will conduct a merit-based interview process during which applicants will be scored on the ther (1) owner qualifications, (2) neighborhood compatibility plan, (3) community benefits and investments plan, and (4) proposed site plan. Each of the aforementioned items has a maximum score of 400 points and therefore a total of 1,600 points may be awarded to each applicant in Phase III. 

Upon the completion of Phase III, the Staff Selection Committee will tabulate the scores of all Applicants from Phase III to create a preliminary ranking which will form the basis for determining which applicants will be invited to participate in Phase IV. The ranking will be based upon the scores received through the Phase III merit-based interview process. Should there be a tie in any scoring, the Staff Selection Committee will rank each of the Applicants that participated in Phase III, in order to establish an eligibility list. 

Phase IV of the Cannabis Business Permit Application

Upon completion of Phase III, Phase IV will begin with the City Manager presenting the list of top applicants from Phase III to the City Council. The City Council will interview the top Applicants and make a final determination as to which Applicant(s), if any, will be awarded a commercial Cannabis Business Permit for storefront retail. Applicants that make it to Phase IV should be prepared to give a short presentation during an interview by the City Council. At the close of Phase IV, the City Council will announce what, if any, applicants will be awarded a commercial cannabis business permit. 

After the City Council has determined what (if any) Applicants will be awarded Commercial Cannabis Business permit and as a condition of issuance of the regulatory permit, each selected operator will be required to enter into a Community Benefit Agreement with the City. The Community Benefit Agreement will be a negotiated document that includes reference to the benefits that the selected applicant will bestow upon the community if it is cleared to operate. 

Additionally, any community benefits that a selected operator agrees to provide pursuant to the aforementioned Community Benefit Agreement shall be incorporated into the terms and conditions of the City’s Commercial Cannabis Business permit approval. 

Upon successfully negotiating and executing the Community Benefit Agreement, the Applicant will then be authorized to proceed to apply for any required land use permits and a business license and related approvals.

Criminal Background Check Information

As noted above, a criminal background check is one element of the City’s Commercial Cannabis Business permit application. Each Owner as defined in Chapter 123.06 (N) must undergo a criminal history background check to ensure  that they are eligible to participate in the Cannabis Business Permit application process (see IMC Chapters 123.08 and 123.37(K) for eligibility details). Owners who do not meet the criminal history eligibility requirements of Chapter

123.37 (K) will be disqualified. The background check fee for each owner shall be $300.00. Click here to access the City’s digital background check form.

Additionally, each successful Applicant will be asked to submit to a Live Scan as part of the background check as determined by the Chief of Police. Prior to being issued a Commercial Cannabis Business permit, the Applicant’s primary contact will be notified by email with the instructions on how to schedule theLive Scan appointment.

Zoning Verification Letter (ZVL) Information

As part of a complete application packet for a Commercial Cannabis Business permit, each applicant must obtain a Zoning Verification Letter (“ZVL”) from the Community Development Department. A ZVL is essentially a letter from the City confirming that the property or building that the applicant would like to use to house its storefront retail business is zoned appropriately for such a use. 

To secure a ZVL, an applicant must submit a written request to the Community Development Department that specifies, among other things, the intended use of the building and the proposed building location. Applicants should also specify if they currently occupy the premises or if there is a different tenant currently occupying the premises and what type of business activity is currently being conducted at the premises.

A ZVL may take time to obtain, especially if the City’s Community Development Department gets overwhelmed by requests. Applicants should therefore afford the Community Development Department ample time to receive, process, and respond to all ZVL requests. Once a ZVL is obtained, it must be submitted as a part of the applicant’s Commercial Cannabis Business permit application in compliance with the City’s Application Procedure Guidelines.

Cannabis Permit Application Fee and Other Fee Information

All City of Indio Cannabis Business Permit applicants are required to submit a fee of $10,856. This amount will be charged against time spent by City staff and the Consultant in reviewing applications and administrating the application process. In addition to the application fee, applicants are also required to submit a separate fee of $452 for the Zoning Verification Letter (ZVL) per site and a Background Check Fee of $300 per owner.

Applicants may be required to pay additional amounts, as required, for the sole purpose of the City’s completion of the application review process. 

Payment must be made by credit card through the online payment portal, or by mail through a certified check, cashier’s check or money order made payable to the City of Indio. Please note that payment by credit card will include a separate processing fee. Applicants paying by certified check, cashier’s check or money order must submit payment by mail to the following address: 

Community Development Department 
Attn: Administrative Assistant 
Indio City Hall 
100 Civic Center Mall 
Indio, CA 92201 

Payments sent by mail shall clearly indicate which application is associated with the certified check, cashier’s check or money order, and must be postmarked no later than October 6, 2022. The City will not accept payment by cash. Application fees are non-refundable once the City has begun reviewing the application.

Application Submission Deadline 

Applications (including required payments) must be received by the City’s Community Development Department by 4:00 p.m. on October 6, 2022. The City of Indio will not accept any late applications. 

A Cannabis Business Permit application may be rejected for the following reasons: 

1. It is not responsive to this Cannabis Business Permit application and the Application Procedure Guidelines for a Commercial Cannabis Business Permit. 

2. The issuance of the Cannabis Business Permit for the proposed location does not comply with State law, IMC Chapter 123 (Business Regulations) and/or IMC Chapter 159 (Zoning Regulations).

Submission Limitations 

It is important to note that applicants that own 10% or more of a retail cannabis business that submits an application for a storefront Cannabis Business Permit  are limited to submitting one storefront retail application during this application period.

Additionally, the City of Indio will only accept a maximum of two ZVLs per property (APN), thus limiting the number of applicants that can claim a single parcel as their proposed operating location.   

Apply for Your Cannabis Business Permit in Indio Today

Rogoway Law attorneys are deeply experienced at handling local permitting processes from beginning to end. For assistance with your cannabis permit application for the City of Indio, please contact the cannabis licensing and permitting lawyers at Rogoway Law

For updates about the commercial cannabis permitting process in Indio, you can also contact the City of Indio’s Community Development Department at 760-541-4207 or by email at cannabis@indio.org.

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