As we move further away from marijuana prohibition, we are seeing more and more U.S. states voting to legalize medical marijuana. Although still illegal at the federal level, it is legal to buy and consume marijuana with medical prescriptions in states like California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, among many others. Crucially, federal agents no longer have the power to raid medical marijuana dispensaries.

how to start a medical marijuana dispensary

Marijuana is often prescribed by physicians for its ability to treat pain, illness, nausea, and eating disorders, among other conditions. Dispensaries are therefore required to ensure that those in need can fill their prescription regularly. More dispensaries will be needed in the coming years to ensure adequate supply. But before rushing to start your own dispensary, you first need to consider these questions…


1.  Am I ready to run a marijuana dispensary?

Running a dispensary is a serious endeavor and you have to do it for the right reasons. Dispensaries can receive unwanted attention in the local community, either through vandalism or protests. You need to be ready to tackle those issues when they arise. Owning a dispensary will carry greater stress than the average business.

2.  Do I have the necessary expertise?

Ideally, you will have a high level of knowledge and experience with marijuana, including strain types and cultivation – this is not an industry to enter without experience. However, you should also consider finding a growing expert to provide additional support. Many dispensaries cultivate their own marijuana, so it makes sense to have a dedicated grower while you focus on the other facets of the business.

3.  Can I establish a dispensary in my area?

You can check here with the National Conference of State Legislatures to see if medical marijuana is legal in your state. A yes means you can now check with your Department of Health Services to see if there are any restrictions at the city or county levels.

4.  Do I know the zoning laws?

Marijuana dispensaries have to be positioned within commercial zones because they are technically businesses. However, zoning laws might prevent you from being within specified distances of schools, parks and residential areas. Careful research will be required to successfully acquire the necessary permits.

5.  Which lawyer should I hire?

The dream scenario is to work with a lawyer who has prior experience working with medical marijuana businesses. You can go to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws to find lawyers who specialize in medical marijuana. Speak to different lawyers as you try to find the best candidate. Quiz them on compliance and state regulations for your area.

6.  What should my business plan include?

You need to draft a plan that clearly outlines the goals, requirements, and financial projections for your business. A quick Google search will let you find various business plan templates. Browse through several options and find one that best fits your vision. Investors can be reluctant to fund dispensaries. Consequently, you need to be as thorough as possible. Seek out the help of a business expert if you have to.

7.  When do I need an accountant?

After securing investment, you absolutely need the help of a certified public accountant. Your business can easily end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars during the setup process. Losing track of your spending is all too easy, and will only create future tax issues with the IRS. An expert accountant will keep your books in order from the outset.

8.  Should I rent or buy a shop?

You can perform hours of research into a location, only to discover issues at a later point. Renting first makes sense because you can find an alternative location later without losing a large sum of money. In finding your shop, begin searching in the approved zoning areas. Find somewhere that is easily accessible and secure. Disclose from the outset that you plan to open a dispensary.

9.  What image should my dispensary portray?

An unfortunate stigma of marijuana is that many Americans see cannabis users as little more than shady characters from Hollywood movies. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you maintain a respectable image for the good medical marijuana in America. Be pleasant to your neighbors and always provide the highest level of customer service. You should also invest in security to put off criminals and make your customers feel safe.

10.  How do I reach new customers?

Well, the bad news is that most social media platforms will not let you advertise online. You are better off taking your efforts offline and start meeting with local physicians. They can refer patients to your dispensary if you strike up an honest relationship. Websites like the Hemp American Media Group can also be used for networking (website marketing tips can be found here).

Setting up a medical marijuana dispensary is definitely possible. Address the above questions and you can make it happen.

Have a Project to Discuss

Tell us what you’re struggling with and we’ll give you a solution!

Let’s Get Started!