Our first recommendations are to educate and advocate before diving into your own unique entrepreneurial contribution.
Learn about the movement, the industry vertical, and the needs. If you haven’t already, start following the major organizations helping to push the drug policy agenda across the US. Identify organizations that are working to change laws in your own state. Look into the latest on Google news – or even better, set up Google Alerts – for key phrases like “[Your state] + medical marijuana news.”
Not sure where to start? Try:
• GRC’s National Guide to the Cannabis Industry
• Marijuana Policy Project
• Drug Policy Alliance
• Marijuana Business Daily
Depending on how far along your state process is, you may have more power to shape the marijuana industry than you think. Even after a law has passed, the state still needs to develop regulations to implement that law. Local governments are also involved, often through zoning requirements. By getting involved at different levels of government programs, you can help establish industry best practices for your state and local area.
How much will it cost to get into the cannabis industry?
Costs vary dramatically based on your goals, your state, the regulations, and more.
• To open a dispensary, we recommend a minimum of $500,000.
• To start commercial cultivation, we recommend a minimum of $1,000,000.
In States with competitive, merit-based applications, more is typically better, and may be critical to finding appropriate real estate.
However, in States with compliance-based applications (especially with lottery processes), you may be able to succeed with less.
When should I start? How long does it take?
As soon as possible. Before a license application process becomes available, you need to be prepared: ideally, this will include a business plan, an expert team, and at the very least a lead on a location.
Writing your license application will also take time. Most of our winning applications took several months to put together, followed by months (or over a year!) before license pre-approval, and several more months of build-out and inspection before beginning to operate.
While we have put together winning applications on tighter timeframes, we recommend starting early – before the license applications are released.
What are the biggest challenges for cannabis businesses?
There are a LOT of challenges. Getting involved in this industry can be a roller coaster, filled with governments changing regulations, people changing their minds, and businesses adding surcharges just because you sell cannabis.
Cannabis is still considered a Schedule I drug on the federal level. This is the biggest source of risk for patients and businesses, and it is the biggest factor limiting research into the medical benefits of the plant.
What are the biggest issues for cannabis entrepreneurs?
• Getting (and keeping!) a bank account
• Finding a correctly zoned location
• Understanding and complying with ALL regulations
• Writing winning license applications in the minimal time available