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So You've Secured a Dispensary License, Now What?

Six actionable insights from industry veterans at Unity Rd. on how to take your dispensary license and turn it into a business.

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With often intricate, ever-shifting application rules, receiving any kind of cannabis license feels like a success. You should celebrate the huge win but as a new license holder, you are now part of a heavily regulated industry that’s filled with potential but also riddled with risk every step of the way. From help with hiring management teams to touring potential sites and complex legal demands to tapping into or creating a supply chain, there are a thousand steps ahead before it’s time to fully enjoy the accomplishment. Now, where do you start?

Keep an Open Mind

With nearly a decade in the cannabis industry, Jennifer Zarezadeh knows her way around regulations. As the director of franchise support for Unity Rd., which provides a cannabis dispensary franchise opportunity for entrepreneurs nationwide, Zarezadeh spends her work days helping new players navigate that complex landscape. With a successful track record, Zarezadeh is quick to remind anyone interested in entering the cannabis industry to do so with an open mind as developing patience for unforeseen roadblocks will be worth it.

Research Local Laws

Keep in mind that each state has its own complexities and deadlines. What’s worked in Washington will likely be different in Oregon, which won’t match up to how California runs their state program. Be proactive by understanding all the laws, rules, and regulations for your state, county and local municipality — these can differ. Zarezadeh recommends this be done prior to applying for the license as well as afterward and then monitored on an ongoing basis.

Build Your Internal and External Team

Construct your team with people who have specific expertise in the industry instead of relying on a few generalists to figure it out as it comes, Zarezadeh said. Beyond your internal team, seek out a solid bench of legal, consultants, strategic partners, and vendors that are reliable and invested in your success.

Continue Raising Capital to Create Sustainable Growth

“Entering the cannabis industry is not a low-cost venture,” Zarezadeh said. “The tax complexities do not allow federal-level tax deductions and federal funding is non-existent. This makes access to capital essential, as even slight business missteps can end up costing far more than typical industries.”

Zarezadeh says to seek out investors and strategic partners who can offer industry expertise and guidance.

Be Ready to Move Fast and Adapt

Fay Powell, director of education and training for Item 9 Labs, started in Arizona’s medical marijuana market in 2013 and has opened six dispensaries across three states. She urges new licensees to accept that time is going to start moving a lot faster, meanwhile the industry continuously evolves.

“Be extremely humble about the knowledge you think you have about the plant and the industry,” Powell said. “With such a young industry, if you’re not open-minded about change and not open to a previously thought of 'fact’ being proven untrue, you’re going to be left in the dust. Remain open minded and seek knowledge, while searching constantly for the latest research. Continue that quest.”

Develop a Firm Pulse on Data

Powell recommends developing an addiction to data & analytics and finding a vendor that allows for real-time data to be easily rendered and manipulated into various reports. “Running end-of-night reports and comparing the data to the day and month prior is critical to understanding your dispensary’s performance,” she said.