If you’re ready to kick off your Cannabis Business but don’t know how to apply for a license, you’re not alone. Getting your license is one of the most important decisions you have to make to ensure your business is free to operate. 

However, you must understand that these adult-use Cannabis laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and what’s attainable in one state may be prohibited in another. Still, there’s some commonality in the process, no matter where you are.

Let’s look at how you can get your Cannabis license to operate a dispensary.

Who Can Apply for a Cannabis Dispensary License?

As mentioned earlier, jurisdictions vary and so do the eligibility criteria to acquire licensure for any Cannabis-related business. However, here are some general guidelines to note:

  • Age Requirement: Applicants must be 21 years of age or older to apply for a Cannabis dispensary license. This ensures that only responsible adults are involved in the operation of these establishments.
  • Residency Requirement: Some jurisdictions may require that applicants be residents of the specific state or region where they intend to operate the dispensary. This requirement prioritizes local businesses and prevents out-of-state entities from dominating the market.
  • Background Checks: Applicants are often subjected to comprehensive background checks to assess their suitability for operating a cannabis dispensary. This may include criminal history checks to ensure that applicants do not have any disqualifying convictions related to drug offenses or other relevant crimes.
  • Financial Capacity: Many jurisdictions require applicants to demonstrate sufficient financial resources to support the establishment and ongoing operation of a cannabis dispensary. This may include providing detailed financial statements, proof of funding sources, and a business plan that outlines the applicant’s ability to meet financial obligations.
  • Compliance with Regulations: Applicants must be willing and able to comply with all relevant regulations and licensing requirements. This includes adhering to zoning restrictions, security protocols, product testing, record-keeping, and other regulatory obligations specific to the cannabis industry.
  • Real Estate Requirements: Many jurisdictions require you to show proof of site control via a signed lease or valid deed. This can be a difficult thing to obtain given the time it takes to receive a license and the related holding costs of a lease or property.

These criteria can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction, so it’s advisable to thoroughly research and familiarize yourself with the specific requirements of the region where you intend to apply for a Cannabis dispensary license.

The License Application Process for a Cannabis Dispensary


Once you’ve met all the requirements, it’s now time to begin the process. Below is a step-by-step process to acquire a cannabis business license, specifically, a dispensary:

1. Check the Application Window for the State

Each state has specific periods for issuing licenses. The application window refers to the specific period during which the state regulatory agency or licensing authority accepts applications for cannabis licenses. Some jurisdictions may have set timeframes for application windows, while others may have rolling or continuous application processes.

2. Understand the State’s Requirements for Licensing

Each state has its own set of regulations and criteria that must be met to obtain a cannabis dispensary license. These requirements can be different for adult-use and medical cannabis dispensaries, so begin by conducting thorough research on the specific state’s cannabis regulations and licensing requirements.

Review the state’s laws, statutes, and administrative rules governing the cannabis industry. Pay close attention to the licensing categories, eligibility criteria, application procedures, and any specific requirements for each license type.

3. Complete the Local Permitting Processes

While the state may have its laws and requirements on Cannabis business applications, you must also ensure to meet the demands of municipalities, like cities or counties in the state. Some municipalities may prohibit cannabis businesses, so ensure to set up your business in a cannabis-friendly environment.

4. Prepare Application Materials

Gather all the required documentation and information needed for the application. This typically includes personal and financial background checks, proof of residency, business formation documents, lease or property ownership documents, security plans, business plans, operational procedures, inventory control plans, and employee and financial disclosures.

5. Complete the Application

Carefully complete the application form, ensuring accuracy and completeness, and attach all the required supporting documents. Be prepared to provide detailed information about your business, including your business plan, security measures, product sourcing, inventory control, employee training, and compliance processes.

6. Pay the Application Fee and Submit Your Application

Depending on the license type and state, the application costs may vary. The governing body cannot process your application until you’ve paid the fee. Note that If you are applying as a social equity applicant, the fees may also vary, so ensure to sign and submit a social equity attestation. This application fee is usually non-refundable.

7. Wait for the Application Review Process

Once the application is submitted, it will undergo a thorough review process by the regulatory body or licensing authority. This may involve background checks, financial viability assessments, suitability evaluations, and compliance verifications. The review process timeline can vary, ranging from several weeks to several months.

8. Pay Your License Fee

If the completed application is accepted, the next step in the licensure process is to pay the license fee. Different types of cannabis businesses are charged differently, so ensure to find out how much an adult-use retail license costs in your area. These license fees can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands.

9. Site Inspections

As part of the application process, the regulatory body may conduct on-site inspections to verify compliance with security, safety, and operational requirements. Ensure your dispensary is fully prepared and meets all the necessary standards.

10. Receive Your License and Comply with Applicable Laws

Once you’ve received a license to dispense or sell cannabis products, your cannabis establishment can begin operation while complying with all applicable laws. Understand that failure to comply, your cannabis permit can be revoked.


Applying for a dispensary license requires careful attention to detail and adherence to the specific requirements set by regulatory authorities. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this guide, aspiring dispensary owners can increase their chances of a successful application.

It is important to conduct thorough research, prepare a comprehensive business plan, gather the necessary documentation, and ensure compliance with all applicable regulations. Seeking professional assistance and staying informed about any updates or changes in the licensing process can also be beneficial. 

Want to speed up the process? Speak with our experts at Zoned Properties.