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So You Wanna Sell Weed?

Opening a dispensary is a tough business

As impending legalization inspires entrepreneurs to dream in green, a little caution is in order—launching a reefer retail business is harder than it sounds. Here are some tips for navigating regulatory hoops:

Start Clean

Most state marijuana agencies refuse to award retail licenses to citizens with felony convictions—a policy that, after decades of racially biased drug law enforcement, disproportionately excludes people of color, often for simple cannabis possession. The good news: In Oregon, it’s now possible to get records of decades-old marijuana offenses expunged. Other states that allow recreational use are considering similar legislation.

Raise the Cash

The application fee for a state marijuana license ranges from $250 to $10,000—and that’s just the beginning. Oakland-based Green Rush Consulting recommends having at least $250,000 of starting capital.

Find a Space

Even in states where cannabis is legal, counties can ban dispensaries altogether. Most states also prevent retailers from setting up near schools and other youth-oriented facilities. Scour government sites and resources like for zoning policies.

Stock the Shelves

Retailers can only offer products from in-state licensees, so network with local growers, confectioners, and manufacturers’ sites like For in-store packaging, try sustainable options like WoodStalk’s reusable bamboo containers.

Hire Help

Dispensaries require “budtenders” to serve clients, as well as security guards to monitor entry. Specialized recruiting agencies like Ms. Mary Staffing can connect you with qualified employees. You’ll also need an accountant to handle complex tax codes—there are cannabis-focused bookkeeping firms in most legal states—as well as a lawyer to ensure you’re compliant with regional regulations.

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