Secretary of State's Role in Starting a Cannabis Business

The Secretary of State (SOS) has two primary roles in cannabis implementation, which are:

  • The registration of business entities including change filings thereafter; and
  • The registration of trademarks and service marks including change filings thereafter.

Business Entity Filings

The SOS is the filing agency for specified business entity documents. Those seeking to obtain a license for cannabis-related activities as a business entity will likely first need to file business documents with the SOS before applying or reapplying for any appropriate license(s) with other local or state agencies.

Domestic corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships are required to file business entity documents with the SOS. General partnerships may register with the SOS, if desired. Foreign (formed outside of California) corporations and foreign limited liability companies that plan to engage in lawful cannabis-related activities within California are required to file business entity documents with the SOS.

As the first stop for those seeking to establish a cannabis-related business, the SOS has a variety of business resources available to make the process of starting a business in California easier. Customers considering which business entity type to form can find a brief overview of various business structures on the Starting a Business – Entity Types page. Once a desired business entity structure is chosen, information regarding business filings with the SOS including forms, samples, fees and filing tips can be found on the bizfile California portal. Within the bizfile California portal, certain business entity documents can now be filed online. Common cannabis-related business forms can also be found on the Cannabizfile Cannabis Forms and Fees page.

Answers to frequently asked questions regarding cannabis-related business entity filings are available in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Cannabizfile portal. For an explanation of various requirements for starting a cannabis business in California, please see the 10 Steps to Starting a Cannabis Business Entity in California brochure. Once formed, customers can obtain free PDF copies of most previously filed business entity documents for corporations and limited liability companies on the Business Search page, which can be helpful for cannabis-related business entities that need to supply these records for local or state license applications.

Trademarks and Service Marks

The SOS registers trademarks and service marks ("Trademarks") in California. As of January 1, 2018, customers may register their cannabis-related Trademark with the California Secretary of State’s office so long as the mark is lawfully in use in commerce within California and matches the classification of goods and services adopted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Registering a cannabis-related Trademark with the California Secretary of State’s office can benefit a business by protecting their brand or logo. Registration in California can be especially valuable for cannabis businesses that have been unable to register federally with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

For further information including forms, fees and registration instructions, please visit the California Secretary of State’s Trademark and Service Mark webpage. Additional resources specifically relevant to cannabis-related Trademark customers, such as common classification codes used for cannabis-related Trademarks, are also available in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the cannabizfile portal. If you are ready to apply for a trademark or service mark, you may apply online at tmbizfile.sos.ca.gov.