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How to Get a Marijuana Business License

It’s easy to get swept up in the hype of the cannabis industry. After all, it has undergone a radical transformation, turning from a small-scale sector into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Entrepreneurs are lured to start their own ventures by the extraordinary profits – and the rapid growth. There’s just one thing they often fail to ask: how to get a marijuana business license.

Without a marijuana business license, there is no business. You can invest endless cash into facilities and products, but you need to operate within the confines of the law. Existing information about how to get a marijuana business license is often confusing and unclear. It’s also not readily discussed how different states operate.

In this article, we’ll clearly explain how to get a marijuana business license – breaking down the requirements by state.

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How to get a marijuana business license 

State-by-state marijuana business license guide

Please find a broad overview of every state’s procedure for how to get a marijuana business license:

State Procedure
Alaska Apply for a Marijuana Establishment License online – further licenses available for cultivation and manufacturing facilities. 
Arizona You can periodically apply for a medical marijuana dispensary registration certificate through the Arizona Department of Health Services
Arkansas You must apply for a dispensary license through the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission.
California Depending on your business type, you can apply for a license through either the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch, or CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing.
Colorado You can apply for either a medical marijuana business license or a retail marijuana business license.
Connecticut The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection periodically accepts dispensary and producer license applications via the Medical Marijuana Program
Delaware Medical marijuana is distributed via compassion centers and is administered via the state’s Medical Marijuana Program
Florida You can apply to open a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center via the Office of Marijuana Use
Hawaii Licenses are issued by the Medical Cannabis Program
Illinois Applications for dispensaries are made via the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
Louisiana No system is, as yet, in place.
Maine License applications are processed by the Medical Use of Marijuana Program
Maryland The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is responsible for processing dispensary applications. 
Massachusetts You can apply to operate a Registered Marijuana Dispensary via the Medical Use of Marijuana Program or the Cannabis Control Commission
Michigan Applications are made to the Facility Licensing Division under the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. 
Minnesota Marijuana business licenses are not available. Cannabis is dispensed via ‘cannabis patient centers’. 
Montana Applications should be made to the Medical Marijuana Program
Nevada All licensing applications are made to the Nevada Department of Taxation
New Hampshire You cannot apply for a medical marijuana business license. 
New Jersey You can apply for a medical and recreational license through the Cannabis Regulatory Commission
New Mexico All license applications are made via the Medical Cannabis Program
New York You can apply for a retail license via the Office of Cannabis Management
North Dakota The state’s Medical Marijuana Program is responsible for the granting of licenses.
Ohio Licenses are granted to a limited number of cannabis businesses via the state government
Oregon You can apply for a recreational marijuana license via the Oregon Liquor Control Commission License.
Rhode Island You should submit a license application via the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation
Vermont Applications for licenses are made to the Marijuana Registry under the Department of Public Safety. 
Washington The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board is responsible for marijuana licensing applications. The application process is currently closed.
Washington D.C. Applications for licenses are made to the Medical Marijuana Program.

What if the licensing period has ended?

Hope is not lost. In many states, licenses are issued in a limited number. To run a marijuana business in such states, you will need to purchase the license from an existing license holder. You will naturally be bidding against other interested parties, but such sales do happen. 

However, you’ll often need to undergo the same application process and fees to apply – and you’ll likely need an attorney to manage the buying process.

Important factors in applying for a marijuana business license

One significant factor can impede your likelihood of acquiring a cannabis license: a criminal record. For example, according to the California state government:

“…the Bureau may deny a license to an applicant who has been convicted of an offense that is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the application is made.”

Meanwhile, in Colorado, you must not have any controlled substance felonies within the prior ten years or five years from May 28, 2013 – whichever is longer. These rules are particularly stringent, and there is little room for maneuver. 

How much will an application cost?

Simply knowing how to get a marijuana business license is one thing; paying for it is another. In California, for example, you can expect to pay a non-refundable application fee of $1,000. However, you can have your license fee waived if you were negatively affected by the criminalization of cannabis. On the other hand, in Colorado, the application is $5,000, with the license fee costing a further $2,000. 

As you can see, the application fees can change drastically depending on your jurisdiction. Always check the application fee before submitting an application – as if you don’t provide the appropriate amount, your application will not be processed. 

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