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How to open a dispensary in Idaho


Are you wondering how to open a dispensary in Idaho? This page will keep you updated on the latest news and information about opening a cannabis business in Idaho that includes helpful insights into what is to come next for the state.

Idaho continues to maintain its strict prohibition of both medical and recreational cannabis use. The state classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, making it completely illegal. Despite previous efforts to introduce medical cannabis initiatives, none have succeeded thus far. However, there is a new initiative in progress for 2024 that aims to potentially legalize medical marijuana, but it requires significant support to make it onto the ballot. 

On the federal level, there were significant efforts in 2022 to change cannabis laws, though no immediate success was achieved. In Idaho, the only exception is Epidiolex, a CBD-based drug approved for epilepsy treatment. There is no legal cannabis market in the state, and cannabis-related offenses come with severe penalties, including asset confiscation. Defendants facing these charges can explore legal remedies, but Idaho’s historical stance on cannabis remains rigid, maintaining strict control over all aspects of its use.

Various attempts to introduce medical marijuana initiatives were made, although they faced obstacles and ultimately failed to gain traction. In 2015, Senate Bill 1146a aimed to legalize CBD oil specifically for children suffering from intractable epilepsy, but it met with a rejection from Governor Butch Otter, preventing its passage. 

In 2018, House Bill 410 emerged to legalize the medical use of CBD; however, it encountered a challenge due to conflicts with the Gun Control Act of 1968, leading to its failure to become law.

Most recently, in 2023, House Bill 370 was introduced as a personal bill, intended to initiate discussions surrounding medical marijuana legalization. Unfortunately, this too faced challenges and has not progressed beyond this point.

Market Demand and Growth Potential

Despite Idaho’s strict approach to cannabis, there is an increasing discussion about its possible future legalization. This shift is influenced by changing attitudes towards cannabis across the country and legalization in neighboring states. There’s a noticeable interest in cannabis, especially for medicinal purposes, suggesting a potential market ready to emerge if state laws change. With Idaho’s strong agricultural background, the state could become a key player in the cannabis industry if legalization occurs. Entrepreneurs interested in cannabis businesses should pay close attention to these evolving legal and societal trends, as they will indicate when and how the market might open.

Legal Framework and Compliance

Opening a dispensary in Idaho demands a comprehensive understanding of the state’s strict legal framework governing cannabis. It is essential to look into the details of Idaho’s cannabis laws and regulations. As of 2024, Idaho maintains a stringent stance against both medical and recreational cannabis, classifying it as a Schedule I controlled substance. We will provide an in-depth examination of these laws, offering clarity on what is permissible and, more crucially, what is strictly prohibited. It will also outline the compliance requirements specific to Idaho, ensuring that aspiring dispensary owners are well-versed in the legal landscape before embarking on this venture.

Local Challenges and Opportunities

The prospect of opening a dispensary in Idaho faces significant challenges due to the state’s firm opposition to cannabis. Both medical and recreational marijuana remain illegal, with no indications of a policy change in the near future. This presents a significant barrier for potential dispensary owners.

Legal Hurdles and Risks

Idaho’s strict laws mean that growing, purchasing, selling, or using cannabis for any purpose is illegal. The state has seen several failed ballot initiatives aimed at legalizing cannabis. Possession of even small amounts of cannabis can lead to severe legal consequences. Being caught with less than 3 ounces is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and a year in prison. Distribution charges are even more severe, potentially leading to a $50,000 fine and a minimum one-year jail term. Without a medical marijuana program, the state also does not issue medical cannabis cards, further complicating the situation for potential dispensary owners.

Economic Implications

Despite its illegal status, there is a growing debate about the economic impact of marijuana in Idaho. Advocates for legalization argue that it could reduce incarcerations and significantly boost the state’s economy. A notable increase in cannabis use among Idaho residents suggests a latent market potential. By analyzing the average excise tax rates and the population of marijuana users in each state, the Tax Foundation calculated the possible excise tax income that could be generated in a market that has been operational for a minimum of three years. In Idaho, the estimated potential revenue from marijuana taxes is $33,295,445.

Medical Marijuana

The Idaho Medical Marijuana Act is a legislative proposal aimed at establishing a medical cannabis program in Idaho. If the proposal receives approval, here’s an overview of its key provisions:

  • Civil and Criminal Protections: The Act would provide protections for patients with a medical practitioner’s recommendation to use cannabis for treating a debilitating health condition.
  • Regulation and Licensing: Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare would be responsible for licensing and regulating dispensaries and medical marijuana producers, ensuring safe access for registered patients.
  • Patient Possession and Cultivation: Patients would be allowed to possess up to four ounces of medical cannabis and appoint a caregiver for assistance. Those with a hardship designation could cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home or have a caregiver grow for them.
  • Implementation and Rules: The department would have 120 days post-approval to adopt implementation rules, covering aspects like public safety, product testing, packaging, labeling, pesticide use, and advertising.
  • Fees and Taxes: The Act proposes a 4% retail excise tax on medical cannabis and authorization for the department to collect fees to cover administrative costs. Excess revenue would be shared between the Idaho Division of Veterans Services and the state’s General Fund.
  • Facility Licensing: A scoring system would be implemented for dispensary licenses, with preference given to veterans.

Impact and Considerations

  • Tax Revenue and Allocation: The proposed tax and fee structure aims to cover program costs, with surplus funds supporting veterans’ services and the General Fund.
  • Home Cultivation Restrictions: Property owners have the right to prohibit cultivation by renters.
  • Registry Card Verification: A system for law enforcement to verify registry cards will be established.

This Act represents a significant step towards legalizing and regulating medical marijuana in Idaho, with a focus on patient access, safety, and support for veterans. However, it’s important to clarify that this is a proposal and not yet law. We will update this section once new developments arise.


For those exploring how to open a dispensary in Idaho, the current legal and economic environment poses considerable challenges. The state’s firm opposition to marijuana, coupled with the absence of a legal framework for medical or recreational cannabis, makes the prospect of opening a dispensary in Idaho currently unfeasible. However, understanding these dynamics is crucial for anyone involved in the cannabis industry or advocating for policy change in the state. As the national conversation around cannabis evolves, keeping a close eye on developments in Idaho’s legislation and public opinion will be essential.

Despite the challenges, those interested in this venture should remain optimistic and proactive. Staying engaged with the latest developments and preparing for future opportunities are key strategies for success. By subscribing to our Idaho Cannabis Mailing List (below), we will keep you informed of all the relevant and not-so-easy-to-find information and news about Idaho legalization. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • What are the most recent developments regarding the legalization of cannabis in Idaho?
  • When will applications for new cannabis licenses be available?
  • What special programs will be offered?
  • And more