What are the required licenses to start marijuana dispensaries? Here is a list of all licenses you need or required to have to start a marijuana dispensary or dispensaries both medical or a recreational marijuana dispensary business.

Selling marijuana has, at this point, been more popular longer than it’s been legal.  It used to be that you knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a farmer and you’d meet your guy in some alley and get your dimebag. In fact, the average Joe probably thought that when marijuana would be legalized in their state or country, it only meant that they could now meet at, say, a McDonald’s or a Denny’s instead of that dark alley. In fancy suits and briefcases instead of oversized hoodies and ziplocks.

The days of dark alleyways and dimebags may be done but going legit means paperwork. Lots of paperwork. Let’s look at the first things you’ll need.

Marijuana dispensaries are a veritable godsend and a far cry from those dark, smelly alleys.  In fact, the reaction of anyone buying from marijuana dispensaries for the first time is that it’s “like walking into a candy store”. Sounds about right. Taste tests, receipts, packaging. All nice. It also means that, just like a candy store and any other legitimate business, these dispensaries are subject to routine inspections, bookkeeping, audits and, most importantly: a license to operate.

When in Rome…

Cannabis Dispensary License laws vary from place to place. In the US, each state has differing requirements which you can consult with on this list here. While in Canada, you can use this guide and this list for provincial eligibility. Please also note that when in doubt, it will always be best to consult with a legal expert or practitioner and that their advice supersedes anything you can find online. What we are going to be through are your general licenses.

Marijuana License Breakdown

  • Seller’s Permit – All businesses responsible for selling goods will need to register for a seller’s permit, which is a basic prerequisite for a cannabis dispensary license. All recreational marijuana dispensaries are required to obtain this, but there are a few exceptions such as if you operate as a collective dispensing medical marijuana.
  • State Bureau License
    • Duration – there are two types of cannabis dispensary licenses depending on duration: temporary licenses (good for 120 days) and non-temporary licenses (good for 12 months). All state-issued applications are only valid for one year, pending finalization from the corresponding state bureaus. The requirements from these bureaus are as follows:
      • Business Information – name, permit number, financial information, operating procedures
      • Individual Owner Information – government ID’s, criminal information
      • Premises Information – physical address and certification that the place of business is not within 500-1000 ft of a school, church, daycare or other restricted location (varies by state)


  • Business License Type – for recreational cannabis licenses, the state bureaus will need one of these three licenses
  • Retailer License – for onsite selling of cannabis or by delivery
  • Retailer (non-storefront) license – for selling cannabis via delivery only
  • Microbusiness License – for cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail sale or any combination of these four.
    • A-Licenses are for selling recreational cannabis, M-Licenses are for Medical Cannabis
  • Local City or County License Before applying for a cannabis dispensary license from the state bureau though, you need to ensure that you are able to secure a local license from your city or count first as local jurisdictions may ban actually ban cannabis activity outright depending on ordinances or regulations. 

We Don’t Sell Candy

Yes, that’s quite a lot of licenses, but if you want to open a marijuana dispensary, you should first understand this basic concept: You are not selling candy. You are going to be selling a recently legalized, heavily regulated narcotic known to influence changes in human behavior. 

All in all though, the requirements seem fair and don’t seem to be particularly hard to comply with, it is actually backlogs in approval that are causing a bit of concern. You can read our article about this as well as other challenges in 2019 by following this link. And once you’re done with that, please feel free to subscribe to our newsletter and register to be in the know about recent industry trends.