The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Opening a Dispensary


Thinking about cashing in on the cannabis business? Read this guide before you get ready for your grand opening. We’ll discuss everything from research tips to cannabis business tools and regulations to help you get your dispensary up and running in no time.

Think outside of the box

The market for marijuana and CBD products is already getting saturated fast. In states where dispensaries are legal, there are store popping up everywhere. With over 20 recreational dispensaries in San Diego and more than triple that amount in Seattle, it’s clear you need to find a way to distinguish yourself from the crowd. So if you’re trying to cash in on the trend, you’ll have to think outside of the box if you want your dispensary to be successful among the many others out there.

Will you specialize in high-end CBD products? Are you offering insane deals on your customers’ favorite brands? Using Nanotechnology? Or maybe your storefront grants customers exclusive access to the most elite community of cannabis users in your area. Your potential customers have plenty of options to choose from already—so think about what makes you different, and own it.


Now that you’ve got an idea of what your dispensary is going to look like (as far as your business plan goes), it’s time to do your research. You want to make sure that your business model is totally unique, and doing your research can also help you identify what makes other dispensaries in your area are so successful; and you can even find out what you can do better.

Local competitors

If you have connections in the industry, don’t be afraid to tap into their genius and experience. Ask them what the licensing application process was like for them, what tools they use to manage their business, and what they wish they would have known before they got involved in the cannabis business. While they won’t likely give away all of their secrets (they’re your competition after all), they may be able to give you some valuable nuggets of information to work from.

And if you don’t have any personal connections yourself, get out there and do some market research! Visit your local recreational dispensary, take a look at their inventory, talk to the budtenders, and evaluate your experience. Just be sure to take notes!

Local regulations

In addition to the fun market research, you’ll have to do some more tedious investigating, too. Each city and state has different regulations for how marijuana dispensaries are allowed to operate—and many jurisdictions change rules frequently. While you can certainly navigate this landscape yourself with a healthy dose of patience and determination, hiring a marijuana business attorney can help!


Apply for a license

So you’ve done your research, you’ve perhaps found a business partner or two, and maybe you’ve even found the perfect place to house your business. Now you’re ready to open up shop.

But first, you’ll need to take care of the legal stuff before you can start selling high-quality vape pens and cannabis accessories to your customers. Yes, just like any other business, cannabis dispensaries need to obtain the proper license before they can open for business. In fact, cannabis business licenses are some of the hardest licenses to get approved for.

If you’re planning to open up a dispensary, you’ll need to apply for a cannabis retail licenses at a State level. These can differ based on the state, but in general, the two cannabis retail licensing options are as follows.

  • A License: The “A” license, also known as “adult use,” permits cannabis retailers to sell products to recreational cannabis users. This means they’re allowed to sell cannabis products to anyone 21 years of age and older—without a physician’s recommendation.
  • M License: An “M” license classifies retailers as “medicinal use” dispensaries. This means that the dispensary is only permitted to sell cannabis products to individuals with a recommendation from a physician.

Get funding

All entrepreneurs know it takes money to make money. If you want your dispensary to be successful, you’ll likely need a hefty serving of cash to get it up and running exactly how you want it to. Just like other businesses, there are angel investment companies that focus specifically on investing in the cannabis industry. Look for cannabis angel investors in your area to find the funding you need to get this project moving forward!


In addition to stocking your shelves with the right products and staffing up your storefront with knowledgeable budtenders, you’ll need some basic tools to keep day to day operations running smoothly. Remember to rely on other to avoid mistakes. With the cannabis business taking off, the good news is that it’s easier than ever to find the right tools to run your business. From marijuana dispensary POS systems to cannabis marketing resources, there’s just about everything you need to get your dispensary operation off to a great start.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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