How to start a Cannabis Dispensary

Cannabis has become legal in many states and thus paves the path for massive business opportunities in the field of medical marijuana. According to a Forbes article, the cannabis industry has the potential of generating business worth more than $30 billion by 2025. Therefore, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit and own good risk appetite and guts to invest some decent capital, then starting a cannabis dispensary is lucrative and makes perfect sense in the growing marijuana economy. However, just like any new business, a cannabis dispensary startup is also exposed to business challenges involving initial capital, business laws, medical and food licenses, and operational costs. But, no need to worry. The following pointers will give you a step-by-step approach to starting a cannabis dispensary.

1. Cannabis Knowledge

After understanding the legalities and finances, the next step is to learn about cannabis and its products. It would help if you learned about the different types of cannabis and their benefits, how the cannabinoids react with the body, and also your customer base, i.e., the potential prospects who would buy from you. Most new customers will be unaware of medical marijuana and its benefits. Some of them might even be skeptical. As a business owner, you have to educate them about the benefits of cannabis usage and how your cannabis dispensary can help them with their problems through high-quality cannabis products. Through your acquired knowledge about cannabis, you can win the trust of your customers and ensure long-term customer relationships. For gaining academic experience on cannabis, you can try the courses from various online cannabis universities or attend classroom programs from universities like the Oaksterdam University and the Clover Leaf University.

2. Research the Legalities of starting a cannabis business


The most significant risk of running a cannabis dispensary is the fact that cannabis is still subject to federal laws and may be illegal in some parts of the country. For example, the national classification of medical marijuana falls under a Schedule 1 drug under the FCSA. Therefore, as per federal laws, cannabis seeds cannot be prescribed. However, state laws may be lenient in this case. Therefore, operating the cannabis seeds business can be tricky, and we recommend taking an expert lawyer’s help before starting the company to understand the legal terms. 

Apart from the legalities of the drug itself, there are other parameters to look at, such as if you have a criminal record previously, you might find it challenging to start the business. Other local government laws include cannabis dispensaries should be away from public places like schools, churches, etc. Even for advertising, you should be aware of the state regulations regarding marijuana business signages in public space. Also, you need to know the cannabis sales limit per customer imposed by the state. For example, in the state of California, legally, citizens can buy only up to 1 ounce per day of cannabis. Your supply trucks should also have an exclusive marijuana transportation license.

3. Research the Financial’s of starting a cannabis business

Apart from the legal risks, the cannabis dispensary also comes with financial risks. The initial capital investment can cost you upwards of half a million dollars. Getting investors on board is challenging. Due to the mixed popularities of the cannabis business, some banks will not lend you money or allow you to operate your business through them. Therefore, It would help you if you take services of reputed financial firms & try managing your business through cash. One should also make a list of working capital required to start this business. It can start from basics like investing in a good insurance policy,video-surveillance cameras and anti-burglar alarm systems, etc.

4. Draft a Business Plan

There is a common saying that a written down goal is already half achieved. The same goes for the online dispensary Canada business. It would be best if you write down a thorough business plan for your dispensary. If your business plan looks good, it will attract investors to pour capital into your venture. A solid business plan consists of proper market analysis and research on the cannabis industry. The market research should include customer demographics along with their needs and how you plan to advertise your product to them. The market analysis also leads to a study of the current competitors and industry trends in the cannabis business. The competitors give you an idea to plan your product to sell and appeal to customers in a differentiated manner. It then brings you to a robust sales and marketing plan to determine what is your USP and how to market your products. 

After chalking out the sales plan, you then move on to writing the Management and Operations part of your business. Your potential investors should know who you plan to put on the leadership boards. The Operations section involves details regarding your shop location, employees, manufacturing processes, suppliers, transportation, and inventories. After defining all these comes the money part. The Financial section of your business plan should include your income statement, your balance sheet, and your cash flow sheet. Remember to summarize all the essential details into an Executive Summary. It is the section that will be first read by your potential investors. Add enough charts, pictures, and flowcharts to convey your message across. 

5. Manpower

For a successful Canada weed dispensary, you will need to build a team of people. Mainly your workforce will consist of 2 types of resources: one handling your day-to-day operations and the other handling support services. The human resources should be skilled, loyal, and should have the same vision for success as you have for your business. 

The day-to-day operations staff include budtenders who have the technical knowledge about cannabis strains and their uses and can demonstrate their expert knowledge to customers to keep them happy. Managers and administrative assistants form another part of the operations staff. Managers can keep a team together, whereas admin. Assistants can do a whole range of daily activities such as bookkeeping, IT, or even front desk office work. Apart from these, you also need a team of directors and influencers who can bring business for you through networking and visiting local authorities and key contacts. Do not forget the Security staff in your day-to-day operations list. It would help if you kept your employees and workplace safe and secure. So hire trustworthy security staff.

The support services mainly include legal and finance teams. As mentioned above, you need a good lawyer and an Accountant to make sure that your cannabis business navigates smoothly through the various legal and financial risks. A good accountant can help you save a lot of money by doing your tax filing most efficiently. Your lawyer might also need a compliance officer to make sure that your cannabis dispensary follows all the state and federal regulations diligently.

6. Find a location to operate from

A perfect cannabis location is the one that is in line with all the state and federal regulations that you researched in Step 2. To minimize the cost of business, you should start by renting and not buying a property. While renting, make sure you inform your landlord that you are going to operate a cannabis dispensary to ensure that he/she supports it. Your location should be easy to find for your customers. To search for the ideal location for your cannabis dispensary, contact real estate brokers who are experts in finding workspaces for cannabis businesses. 

7. Marketing Campaign

working, computer

Once you have got a good knowledge of the cannabis industry and have got a strong team of people, it is time for marketing. Marketing is essential to set up the right image of the cannabis industry to the people. Digital marketing helps in attracting and engaging new customers through various channels. Digital marketing can be done using social media, directories, and other tactics. With the help of marketing, you must be able to deliver quality services and customer satisfaction. To develop your brand identity, you must promote the best qualities of your cannabis dispensary. Think about the points that distinguish your brand from the others. Think about the cannabis products that your customers won’t find anywhere else but with you. Also, understand that no matter how good your product is, if your customer’s experience is not good with you, then they won’t come back to your brand. 

Based on these pointers, you must design the inside and outside of your dispensary, your website, business logo, and business name. Remember to put out your brand’s policy in the form of visuals. The interiors of your store or the website are the first interaction a customer gets when they come to your dispensary. So, it is vital to make it appealing so that the customer would stay and love to re-visit. Be consistent with the quality of your products, which helps in maintaining your brand’s status.

The website is important for establishing credibility. In today’s world, every business has an online presence in the form of a website and other social media channels. While designing your website, you must color-coordinate it with your dispensary’s logo. Make it simple, creative, and user-friendly. The customer should be able to find what you are offering easily. They must be able to understand your brand’s mission and vision through your website. Do not irritate the visitors on your site with too many pop-ups. Website blogs should be frequently updated and promoted on social media channels. Along with your website, you should also have a strong social media presence. You must add your cannabis dispensary on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and Pinterest. Make your social media channels engaging using creative posts. Your posts can be an image or video format. 

Finally, there are a lot of rules and regulation changes happening in the field of cannabis marketing. Keep yourself up-to-date with these rules. The advertising rules for cannabis are strict as compared to other businesses. Specific marketing platforms have completely banned cannabis advertising due to governmental status.

8. Grand Opening!

Now that you have understood the risks and benefits of starting a cannabis dispensary, it is time for you to open your dispensary. You have got all the pieces of information on advertising, hiring people, and understanding the legalities. It is time for launching your business. One of the best ways is to start with a grand opening. Throwing a grand opening is your opportunity to make the first impression. So, you have to make sure that the first impression is positive and lasts long. Think of creative ways for a grand opening, i.e., something more than cake and coffee. You can organize a backyard BBQ or hire a DJ. You must invite the local community people and other cannabis brands too. 

You must also consider talking about your brand, your team, and give the products while hosting. It is essential to recognize your team, who is the backbone of the business. Your team should feel how important they are for the success of your company. Introduce them to visitors at the grand opening. People getting to know you and your business are crucial for the growth of your business. 

Give product information and the different strains of cannabis seeds people can get from your store. You can also share information on the various benefits of taking cannabis, how to purchase cannabis from your store, the latest findings, and who should be taking cannabis. Educating them on common topics will clean many misconceptions regarding cannabis. You can collect the contact details of the visitors to mail them about offers or your website blogs. Your enthusiasm and commitment are going to attract more people.   


The above are the steps to start a cannabis dispensary. With the regulations and legalizations, running a cannabis dispensary can be challenging. But with the right business plan, you can be successful in this field. Come up with creative ideas to reach more consumers, maybe even come out with a CBD only dispensary. Incorporating new elements to your dispensary and website will help you grow a successful business.