Cannabis and agriculture

How to Open a Cannabis Dispensary in California

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, here's how to open a dispensary there.

5 min reading time

Open a Cannabis Dispensary in California

Updated on December 01, 2022

Written by Kait Hobson

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In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Now, anyone in California over the age of 21 can purchase marijuana, whether medicinal or recreational. The Golden State has licensed over 10,000 cannabis operators, including cultivators, manufacturers, retailers, distributors, microbusinesses, testing laboratories, and event organizers. If you’re aspiring to start your own cannabis business, then you should start by reading our guide to opening a dispensary here.

To open a dispensary in California, you need a license from California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control. To get a license, you must fill out an application, which you can do online here. This page on California’s Cannabis Portal can help you fill out the application if you are experiencing any difficulties doing so. Finally, this page lists all of the forms you will need to submit in your application.

How do I open a dispensary in California? #

If you’re planning to open a dispensary, then you will apply for a Cannabis Retail License. The required documents for this license are:

  • Business and Operations Plan
  • Financial Plan
  • Inventory Control Plan
  • Patient Education Plan
  • Patient Recordkeeping Plan
  • Dispensary Security Plan
  • Staffing Plan

Requirements in California #

You can read a history of marijuana laws in California here. Below, you can find the full list of requirements for opening up a dispensary:

  • First, there are two types of retailer licenses. Type 9 is a non-storefront retailer (delivery). This means a business that sells and delivers cannabis goods to customers. The business also has a licensed facility, but this facility is not open to the public. Type 10 is a retailer. This means a business that sells cannabis goods to customers at its premises or by delivery. The business has a licensed facility where commercial cannabis activities occur.
  • You must apply for a retail license with your local city and the state of California.
  • Requirements vary from city to city.
  • You must submit a $5,000 bond payable to the state of California.
  • Your retail facility must be at least 600 feet away from a school.
  • Retailers may only sell and deliver cannabis from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Security Options #

Many of the requirements above require experts and paperwork, which can take money and time to find. But you can get started with security measures right away, especially if you already have a facility. In your application, you want to be able to prove to your state or local government that you will be a responsible dispensary owner by having a reliable security system in place to protect your product. A system like Kisi’s enables you to control your security both on-site and remotely, so you can be sure your product is always safe. With Kisi, you can:

  • Restrict access to just yourself and a few of your employees
  • Manage your security system from anywhere
  • Integrate Doorbird to automate your front desk, unlock doors from anywhere, and track unlock logs

You can learn more about different kinds of access control and security options by downloading Kisi’s Physical Security Guide.

Potential Fees #

As you obtain your local and state cannabis licenses, you may encounter some additional costs. These can include:

  • State cannabis license fee: $1,000
  • State cannabis annual fee: $4,000 - $72,000 (depends on income)
  • Local approval fees: $5,000 - $30,000 (depends on project)
  • Environmental permits and assessments: $0 - $30,000 (depends on project)
  • Consulting fees: $20,000 - $40,000 (depends on task size and quantity)

Access Control for Cannabis and Grow Facilities

Discover how Kisi secures grow facilities around the country.

Need Help? #

The path to opening a dispensary in California can be confusing and time-consuming - especially with all of the paperwork involved. If you are struggling with your new business venture or you aren’t sure how to get started, these websites may be helpful:

Dispensary Permits offers consulting services and application packages to help you navigate the dispensary application process. You can also read about California’s history with marijuana laws and about the many types of cannabis licenses that California offers, in case you decide to open a different kind of cannabis business.

Be Green Legal has detailed descriptions of recent marijuana laws in California and advice for opening up a dispensary. They also offer consulting services if you’re unsure about going through the licensing process by yourself.

Learn Sativa University has a list of major Californis cities and their specific marijuana laws so you can find the best location for your new business. They also have a map so you can see where the most dispensaries already exist in California. Still unsure? Enroll in their Cannabis College for a crash course on all things dispensaries.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has a database of marijuana attorneys in the U.S. who can help you open your storefront.

Kait Hobson

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