Ohio has legalized recreational cannabis. Click HERE to learn more about cannabis business opportunities in Ohio.

How to Open a Dispensary (New Guide for 2024)


Are you wondering how to open a dispensary? If you are one of the many entrepreneurs considering launching a cannabis business and need to grasp the rules governing a complicated and rapidly developing market, this article can walk you through the process. We’ll cover all the necessary steps, including research and planning, building your team, acquiring funding, designing your dispensary and retail experience and more.

With marijuana gaining widespread acceptance in recent years, the United States is now seeing a new green rush. Several states have opened the door to this new industry – one in which individuals have shown an interest in becoming involved.

The Opportunity

With new markets opening and more states legalizing medicinal and recreational use, the cannabis industry is a multibillion-dollar enterprise primed for explosive growth. By 2025, overall legal cannabis sales will have grown to $43 billion, according to New Frontier Data. In addition, legal sales in regulated markets will meet 42% of annual US cannabis demand, up from 24% in 2020.

There has also been an increase in investor confidence. According to the findings of the same research, fundraising in the legal cannabis sector will have more than tripled by May 2021, totaling $6 billion.

Is the opportunity right for you? There are a variety of ways to enter into the cannabis industry and programs you need to know about and we will go over.

Do you meet the requirements to open a dispensary?

Requirements depend on the state you’d like to do business in. Find current updates on state-wise cannabis legality and business opportunities.

Laws outline requirements, but it is also vital to be informed about what is going on in each state since it is crucial that you are prepared to act when the state opens for licensing and win against other candidates.The reality of cannabis licensure is that, in most cases, a limited number of licenses are offered within a certain window of time. When these deadlines happen for submitting an application license, it can sometimes take years for another opportunity to open up in that state.

It is important to understand that in many cases, there are many applicants with a limited amount of licenses. Those that are prepared and get what they need in place will succeed. 

To keep up-to-date on application requirements and the latest opportunity news for your state, fill out the form here. It is recommended that you select “All States” to keep your options open. 

Is a dispensary the right type of cannabis business for you? 

Dispensaries are by far the most obvious type of cannabis business that entrepreneurs consider, however there are a variety of different types of cannabis businesses and prospective licenses available. Your choice should be driven by factors such as financial capabilities, knowledge, teamwork, and the possibility of gaining a competitive advantage.

Cannabis License Types

Here are several types of cannabis business licenses typically available in a given state:

Cannabis Manufacturer 

A cannabis manufacturer license allows for the refinement of cannabis extracts to get the proper dose, the processing of cannabis into edibles, pills, capsules, or even vape goods, and the grading of cannabis products based on their potency and categorization. Learn about how to get a manufacturer license here.

Cannabis Cultivator

A cannabis cultivation license enables you to cultivate cannabis in a legal manner. It is possible to get a cultivation license in one of two categories: micro-cultivation licenses or standard cultivation licenses. Specifically, the Micro-Cultivation License is intended for small-scale cultivators who aim to grow cannabis for personal or small-business use, while the Standard Cultivation License is intended for large-scale cultivators, particularly huge businesses. Learn about how to get a cannabis cultivator license here.

Cannabis Dispensary

A cannabis dispensary license authorizes establishments to sell cannabis, cannabis goods, or cannabis-related equipment on a retail basis. Cannabis dispensaries are classified into two types: recreational and medicinal. Recreational marijuana stores offer cannabis products for recreational use and are subject to minimal restrictions. On the other hand, medical marijuana businesses face extra regulations. Customers must have a valid medicinal marijuana prescription or card.

Cannabis Wholesaler 

A cannabis wholesaler license allows any licensed person or entity to purchase, obtain, store, sell, transfer, or transport cannabis items for the purpose of resale or other transfer to either another cannabis wholesaler or to a cannabis retailer, but not to consumers.

Cannabis Distributor 

A distributor licensee is authorized to transport cannabis to dispensaries from cultivators and extractors. Distributors are often not involved in the cultivation or sale of cannabis to consumers; rather, they operate as intermediaries, facilitating business-to-business deals rather than direct sales to consumers.

Cannabis Delivery 

A cannabis delivery licensee is authorized to deliver cannabis to customers at their homes from a licensed cannabis dispensary with whom the delivery licensee has a delivery agreement.

Cannabis Consumption Area 

A location that has been designated and secured for the use of marijuana is authorized and is referred to as a consumption area. The license does not permit the holder to sell cannabis goods, but it may be held by licensed retailers or microbusinesses.

Cannabis Testing Laboratory 

A Cannabis Testing Laboratory license is for a facility that provides or conducts tests on cannabis or cannabis products and has been certified by an accrediting organization and registered with the State Department of Public Health.

The specifics of what is permitted per license vary from state to state. It is essential that you undertake extensive due diligence on the numerous licensing types available in your state in order to submit an application for the appropriate license. 

Research and Planning

If you want to start a cannabis dispensary, it’s important to spend enough time and money researching and planning before you begin. This stage is important because it sets up everything else you’ll need to do to make your business successful.

Know Your State’s Licensing Rules 

Various license, permission, and registration procedures apply to cannabis businesses. Conducting thorough research and understanding each stage of the application procedure, including the local zoning and licensure requirements, fees and deadlines are critical for preparing and delivering the most competitive application and ensuring that you have fulfilled the dates necessary to be considered for licensing.

Additionally, if you are not a resident of the state in which you want to open a dispensary, you should investigate the residency requirements. Some states that have legalized marijuana have incorporated restrictions that require marijuana license holders and workers to be citizens of the state where the marijuana is purchased or used. For example, in the case of recreational marijuana, state residence requirements were included in the first marijuana rules in Washington and Colorado. Meanwhile, no residence requirements exist in California, Nevada, and Oregon.

Learn Your State’s Marijuana Laws 

You will need to do a thorough study of the local and state laws that govern the sale of cannabis in each market you want to enter. To be a successful dispensary owner, you must be well-versed in not just the current regulations governing marijuana production and sales, but also the planned legislation and reforms that will take effect in the future.

Identify the risks 

In spite of the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana usage, there are still dangers to be aware of. When it comes to federal law, the exact legal status of a dispensary is still up in the air. A dispensary may find it difficult to understand how to operate within the confines of the law, which may expose your company to legal liability.

Determine the challenges 

The cannabis industry has a number of challenges, one of which is funding. There are some extra obstacles to overcome in order to secure the necessary financial support. Traditional ways of obtaining money in the cannabis market have proved to be very difficult, and most banks will not even allow you to do business in the cannabis sector via their institutions owing to the dangers involved.


Build Your Team

A diverse range of skills is required to run a cannabis company, including sales, marketing, compliance, and waste management. Because of the wide range of business procedures in the cannabis market, putting together a team takes more time and effort. State licensing boards will also consider the quality and competency of your team and partners when considering whether or not you will be granted a license, making this an incredibly crucial factor in your success.

Most cannabis businesses build their teams through a combination of in-house employees, partners, consultants, and business partners. 

The elements of your company must be supported by a team of people, which may comprise the following individuals. These individuals are either in-house or outsourced relative to a multitude of factors including business size, age, competency of founders, and other factors:

  • Legal Counsel – A cannabis entrepreneur must have connection to an attorney who is knowledgeable about the cannabis sector, including the state license application and compliance procedures, as well as outstanding defense in the event that anything goes wrong.
  • Certified Public Accountant – An accountant with knowledge of the cannabis sector can aid with managing complex tax concerns, company structure, and financial support. Cannabis businesses must conform to cannabis-specific tax rules in order to prevent being fined during an audit.
  • Compliance Officer – A compliance officer informs dispensary personnel of new rules and regulations and builds a compliance culture inside the dispensary to guarantee that every area of your cannabis company complies with all applicable local and state legislation.
  • Security Expert – Your facility’s security system should be designed and maintained to ensure ongoing compliance with all state and local security standards.
  • Third-Party Cannabis Vendor – How you work with your suppliers is critical to your success. Third-party providers help dispensaries better service clients and comply with state rules.
  • Managers – Look for someone who has previous experience working in the cannabis sector. To guarantee the safety and contentment of both customers and staff, they should be able to manage and facilitate all of the store’s transactions and activities.
  • Budtenders – Budtenders must be qualified to operate in a dispensary and must have a broad variety of cannabis expertise in order to be able to provide recommendations to consumers, answer inquiries, handle items, and display the products that are currently on the market.
  • Inventory Manager – Managing inventory at a dispensary may be a time-consuming endeavor. Inventory represents a large amount of a company’s costs, and it must be handled meticulously in order for the company to stay successful.
  • Security Personnel – It is more difficult for dispensaries to maintain stringent security requirements while also assuaging public worries because of the greater probability of drawing criminal attention. A substantial deterrent to armed robbery is provided by the presence of security personnel.

Cannabis training

It is critical that you educate yourself on the different kinds of cannabis, your target consumer base, and how your products will help them. Consider attending a dispensary training program to ensure that you have a thorough knowledge of the goods you will be selling in your store. This will allow you and your team to become more knowledgeable about cannabis and which particular products to recommend according to the interests of your consumers.

Cannabis products

A successful marijuana dispensary will rely heavily on the proprietor’s ability to lawfully get high-quality products while also adhering to all applicable regulations. There are various types of cannabis products available, and individual customers will have varied tastes in the ones they like most.

According to an April 2022 trends and insights report, flowers comprised approximately 43% of 4/20 sales, vapor 25%, edibles 11%, and concentrates 10%. Miscellaneous goods, including tinctures, topicals, and apparel accessories, made up about 3% of sales.

Write a business plan

Writing a business plan is highly advised when beginning a new business from the ground up. A business plan, whether you’re a newcomer to the corporate world or a veteran businessperson, takes time and effort to establish and implement. Among the reasons why you should develop a business plan for your cannabis venture are the following:

  • To secure capital for your cannabis business, banks and investors alike will want a written business plan. That strategy must convince them that you have covered all the bases, from compliance to long-term profitability.
  • In order to be granted a cannabis license, most states will demand you to have one of the highest rated proposals. Your company’s plan and strategy must include competitive partners, security, and financial needs. Anything less may result in throwing away hundreds of dollars in application costs.
  • Even when you receive financing and get your license, your business strategy is vital to your long-term success. Cannabis businesses, like any business, can fail. The quality of your business strategy, especially your financials, and your security and compliance knowledge, especially for cannabis, will assist in maintaining your company healthy and prospering.

A cannabis business plan includes extensive research into the market, operating concepts, and how your organization will stand out. You may hire an expert to assist you with building your cannabis company and business plan. Here’s how working with a specialist on your business plan will benefit you:

  • Expertise and feedback from people with years of experience in the cannabis sector
  • Business plans that are professionally written and have good ratings are more likely to acquire licenses
  • Written with the intention of attracting investment
  • Mixes your particular vision with a strategy that is relevant to the industry
  • Avoid making costly mistakes and oversights in your cannabis business plan

Business plans can be written by the team or by a professional cannabis business plan writer. To learn more about cannabis business plan writing services, please see this page.

Choose Your Dispensary Location

Most jurisdictions require that you have a prospective physical site for your dispensary in place before you can even begin filling out the necessary paperwork for your licensing application.

Each state has its own set of regulations governing the precise location of a cannabis retail establishment. You should verify with your local government to see if there are any extra criteria or limitations. Moreover, check with the county, city, or town where you wish to do business to ensure that it is permitted.

A market study will be beneficial in order to establish which locations are most ideally suited to not only assist your company in thriving but also to be properly zoned. The zoning code will assist you in narrowing down your search for a cannabis business location by telling you precisely where a cannabis company may lawfully be placed in your jurisdiction.

Unless you have the resources to acquire or construct your own dispensary, you’ll most likely be renting or leasing a commercial space for your operation. It’s best to discuss your company objectives with your landlord ahead of time in order to ensure that you rent from someone who is favorable to a cannabis dispensary.

Acquire funding

Most cannabis companies’ starting costs are between $250,000 and $2,000,000, depending on factors including location, size, and goals. Expenses include licensing/application fees, employees, rent, renovations, equipment, product, and security. The federal government has made it difficult for cannabis firms to use traditional banking services and financing. The following methods are often used to finance startups:

  • Self-Funding — Due to the difficulties of obtaining conventional financing, cannabis businesses are likely to choose this option.
  • Partners – The cannabis industry is full of people looking to break into it. A collaboration might benefit both parties, making it a wonderful prospective investment source.
  • Friends and family — Ask for financial help or a no-interest loan from relatives and friends. The danger of lending money to a new firm is well understood by relatives and friends who trust in your strategy.
  • Cannabis Loans – There are more and more lenders eager to collaborate with and support cannabis firms. A cannabis-specific credit union or bank may be able to help.
  • Personal Loans – Good credit and a steady income may qualify you for a personal loan.
  • Private Equity  – Investments from private equity firms have poured into the cannabis business. They buy and hold privately owned enterprises to improve their value, flip them, or keep them long-term.
  • Venture Capital – Investing in the cannabis market via a venture capital company is another option. Many VC firms have joined the cannabis market. Also, taking VC financing involves selling shares in your cannabis company.
  • Angel Investors – An angel investor invests money in a business in exchange for shares or future returns. Individual angel investors may pick which firms to invest in.
  • Crowdfunding – Crowdfunding is becoming more popular among startups. This strategy, however, may take months or even years to acquire the cash required to start a firm.
  • Capital Brokers – Working with a capital broker that specializes in the cannabis sector is another great option. Their job is to find and qualify prospective marijuana investors.

Designing Your Dispensary and Retail Experience

Customer experience is greatly influenced by the appearance and layout of your cannabis dispensary. When it comes to shopping, people have a variety of store options, therefore it is your responsibility to ensure that your dispensary attracts and retains the appropriate clientele. 

Dispensaries have several special layout characteristics that distinguish them from other retail shops, and you will need to plan the layout of your retail space with these characteristics in mind. 

When designing your dispensary, make sure to create a distinct and appealing brand image, recognize your target market, aim for a customer flow that reflects the mood you wish to create and optimize your real estate properly. In addition, collaborating with an architect and an interior designer can assist you in creating an efficient environment that is also pleasant and inviting for your patients and clients.


Congratulations! You’re now ready to take the plunge into the exciting world of legal cannabis company ventures!

As you can see, starting a cannabis dispensary is a massive effort that requires much planning. Because there are so many moving elements to the procedure, it is often beneficial to enlist the expertise of a professional consultant.

Cannaspire offers products, services, and consultancy to help you flourish in the cannabis market, from the first application to the final growth. We will accompany you on your journey through the state application process, as well as through the design, execution, and development of establishing a viable and long-lasting cannabis business. Personalized service, in our opinion, is the key to providing excellent service.

In the next few months, we expect a lot of things to happen that will change when and how recreational marijuana is legalized.

Our Cannabis Mailing List will keep you up to date on all the important and not-so-easy to find news about legalization. You can sign up below.

Here are some of the things that this includes, but not all of them:

  • How much will it cost to open a dispensary?
  • What are the requirements to get a marijuana business license and open a dispensary?
  • What special programs will be available?
  • And more

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