How to Open a Cannabis Dispensary: A Step-by-Step Guide

Are you dreaming about running a successful cannabis dispensary? This article reveals the top tips on how to make your dream come true.


As medical and recreational cannabis is gradually legalized in many states, the demand for reliable dispensaries that sell high-quality, well-tested products increases. Running a dispensary may be very profitable, but you should know this business’s ins and outs before you enter the market. This article explains the unique features of cannabis dispensaries and provides a step-by-step guide on how to open a successful one.


What Is a Dispensary and What Does It Sell?

A dispensary distributes or sells medical/ recreational cannabis and devices to administer it. Depending on state laws, a dispensary may sell only medical cannabis to treat specific diseases. Other dispensaries may provide a wider variety of products, such as:

  • Dried flowers;
  • Edibles (gummies, oils, cakes, etc.);
  • Topical products (creams, roll-ons);
  • Pre-rolls, etc.

Dispensaries vary significantly across the states. In some states, such as Maryland, selling is restricted to local residents only, who should provide their ID to purchase the product. Customers should also obtain a written certificate from their healthcare provider to confirm that they are eligible for cannabis treatment. In other states, laws are less strict, meaning that dispensaries have fewer rules regarding documentation, distribution, and the variety of products allowed to be sold. As a result, running a dispensary in California may be simpler than having this business in Maryland.

Step-by-Step Guide for Opening a Dispensary

If you are planning to start a dispensary business, there are several key steps that you need to take to make it successful.

 Do Your Homework

State laws will greatly affect your business, so check all legal information about cannabis production, distribution, and licensure in your location. Rely on official government websites as these provide relevant and reliable information. Things to pay attention to:

  • What licenses do you need?
  • Do you need a criminal background check?
  • What about residency requirements?
  • Do you need seed-to-sale software for tracking and reporting products?
  • What distribution requirements are there (e.g., what products are allowed)?

You should also check whether any new laws will come into effect in the nearest future that will affect your business. For example, starting a business in a state that’s about to legalize recreational cannabis is a good idea. In this way, by the time the law allows you to sell a wide variety of products, the foundation of your business will be ready.

There will probably be much red tape associated with documentation and compliance with all requirements. However, the challenges you’ll face will also allow you to test how much you are interested in this business and how much effort you are ready to invest.

 Secure Funds and Draft a Business Plan

Opening a dispensary is not cheap. Although the start-up capital may vary considerably depending on your ambitions, you will need at least $250k+ to get the ball rolling. Keep in mind that running this business may be challenging from a financial perspective because of federal banking restrictions related to cannabis distribution. Other things you need to consider in your business plan include the following:

  • Access to capital;
  • Budget;
  • Market research (competition, target populations);
  • Description of the dispensary (products and services);

 Find the Right Property

The next step is to find a perfect spot for your dispensary. You need to do a lot of research on the optimal locations, your target customers, the convenience of access, etc. Be prepared for hindrances because some landlords may refuse to have anything to do with cannabis, even if it’s legalized. In addition, you need to check with the community because the locals are not always responding well to cannabis dispensaries in the neighborhood. You can learn from up-and-running businesses to better understand the nuances. For example, check the locations of the best dispensaries Sacramento for inspiration.

Obtain Top-Notch Product

The fun part of building a business from scratch is that you will have an opportunity to choose the best products you want to offer to the customers. It means a lot of traveling, communication, negotiation, and testing. You will select the most interesting cannabis strains and products to attract the audience. It is an exciting, albeit difficult, process that will determine the future of your business.

H3: Decide How the Dispensary Will Look

The design and layout are also critically important. Once you have all licenses and products ready to be sold, you will need to create an appealing, welcoming space for customers. Think about the following aspects:

  • Dispensary layout;
  • Design;
  • Room for growth (in case your business makes it to the top.)

Your customers want to feel comfortable, so make sure you have a nice atmosphere that will encourage people to come back for more.

 Social Media and Marketing

People should somehow learn about your business. Create social media accounts, place ads across the town, and use the old-fashioned word-of-the-mouth method to reach potential customers.


Finally, secure your shop by installing a reliable security and surveillance system. It may be expensive, but losing cash and thousands of dollars worth of product is definitely something you’d want to avoid.

Keep Your Spirits High!

You will likely face many challenges at each stage of the process. It is easy to get disillusioned and emotionally exhausted when things move too slowly. You must have a clear vision of your successful dispensary and be positive. If you are persistent enough, you’ll have a chance to enter an extremely lucrative and promising market.