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How to open a dispensary in Tennessee


Considering how to open a dispensary in Tennessee? Getting started in this expanding market involves a deeper understanding of the current legal framework. While other states in the U.S. have been open to legalizing either or both the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis, Tennessee remains to hold its ground at the moment by still considering marijuana to be illegal for both medical and recreational use.

It is therefore important for entrepreneurs considering entering this industry to keep themselves updated with any potential shifts in the future since the rules and regulations in the cannabis industry are constantly changing across the country. 

Tennessee’s Cannabis Landscape

An attempt to legalize cannabis in Tennessee started with the introduction of twin bills that acknowledge the use of medical cannabis. These efforts have been expressed by two Republican lawmakers that paved the way for a significant shift with regard to Tennessee’s approach towards cannabis. This has slowly laid out the foundation for opening discussions and further research into the potential of legalizing cannabis. Representative Bob Freeman further made an effort to introduce HB1968, the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act“. This bill was set with the aim of legalizing the growth, sale, and possession of marijuana. However, he was not met with sufficient support for the advancement of the proposal.

There have been several other bills introduced during the 2023 legislative session that focused on the goal of having medical cannabis legalized, getting the approval of permitting it for recreational use, or having penalties reduced for possession. But despite all these efforts made, the State of Tennessee still does not have any operational medical cannabis program in place. For any individual who may be caught in possession of even small quantities of cannabis, strict laws of imprisonment for these individuals are continuously enforced.

Understanding Tennessee’s stance on cannabis becomes even more complex in terms of considering the legal distinction between hemp and marijuana, which both come from the cannabis plant but have different THC contents. It is crucial to recognize the difference as marijuana contains higher levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which induces a high, whereas hemp has more CBD (cannabidiol) and does not produce this effect. It is vital to be well-informed with this knowledge, given that state laws continue to classify marijuana as illegal for both recreational and medical use, while the cultivation and limited use of hemp is allowed.

Continuous efforts remain pertinent as a Tennessee lawmaker made a proposal for a bill to include a public opinion poll on the 2024 November ballot regarding the legalization of marijuana. This would not however change the law but at least would provide valuable insight for the lawmakers to consider the views of their people. With this perspective in hand, the public sentiment could offer a good driving force to back up the idea of a possible legalization of marijuana in the state of Tennessee.

Market Potential: Size and Profitability

The economic impact would highly be significant and may possibly show a market earning a good revenue that will attract investors and entrepreneurs should there be a chance that the state would reconsider and decide to grant full legalization and regulation of the cannabis industry. The Tax Foundation has made an estimation given that if this market would run smoothly for over three years, then Tennessee can earn at least $132,509,552 in extra taxes. This calculation is done by analyzing the average tax rates and considering the number of people in Tennessee that are likely to use marijuana.

Cannabis Dispensary Licensing and Compliance in Tennessee

Currently, Tennessee is not accepting dispensary license applications. But in the meantime, you can set yourself up for preparation by exploring the licensing and compliance procedures in other states for reference. Consider these steps to guide you in the near future.

  1. Research and Preparation: A good amount of research and preparation comes from taking the time to understand the specific licensing requirements while going beyond looking through the financial prerequisites and operational plans.
  2. Application Submission: Before submitting an application, make sure that you provide a detailed documentation that covers from business plans to security measures.
  3. Inspection and Verification: Make sure that the proposed location and operation strictly follow through with the standards of the state.
  4. Approval and Licensing: Once everything is complete and the entire criteria have been met, your business may now be granted a license and begin with the operation. 

Take note that not everyone will be granted a license, and in most cases, only a limited number of licenses is available. Ensure that you are thoroughly prepared and fully equipped to obtain that license. Success will depend on your readiness and the effort you put into meeting all the necessary requirements and qualifications.


While Tennessee remains in continuous deliberation for its stand regarding the potential use of cannabis for medical or recreational use, continuously staying up to date with the changes in the rules is vital. Consider participating in events within the cannabis industry or seek out advice from experienced professionals to be more well-informed and prepared. 

As Tennessee continues to develop its cannabis program and as events unfold that will impact when and how marijuana legalization will occur, we will keep you informed of any pertinent news regarding the establishment of a dispensary in Tennessee. By subscribing to our Tennessee Cannabis Mailing List (Below), we will keep you informed of any relevant and not-so-easy-to-find information and news about Tennessee Legalization. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

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

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