How to open a Dispensary in Colorado

Colorado is one of the states that spearheaded the medical cannabis movement in the United States. It has had medical cannabis since 2000, and as of November 2012, marijuana is allowed for recreational use as well. Colorado has a long list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. They include cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia (wasting syndrome), seizures, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, severe or persistent muscle spasms, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many more.

Opening a marijuana business is very similar to any other type of business, but there are some things to keep in mind. Below is an in-depth look at what you’ll need to launch a successful cannabis business in the Centennial State.

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    What kind of cannabis business can I open in Colorado?

    What kind of cannabis business can I open in Colorado
    Cannabis business in Colorado – Image powered by

    All applicants for cannabis businesses should be 21 years of age or more and have a clean criminal record. The following businesses are legally allowed to operate within the state of Colorado:

    • Retail marijuana stores
    • Marijuana product manufacturers
    • Marijuana cultivators
    • Marijuana testing facilities
    • Marijuana distributors
    • Marijuana extraction services

    Colorado legalized medical cannabis in 2000. In November of 2012, Amendment 64 legalized the possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 and older for recreational use. Since then, Colorado has been a focal point for the marijuana industry in the United States.

    Colorado’s marijuana market

    As of May 1st, 2017, the number of Licensed Medical Marijuana Businesses in Colorado includes 520 centers, 776 cultivation centers, 250 infused product manufacturers, and 14 testing facilities. The number of Licensed Retail Marijuana Businesses consists of 479 stores, 667 cultivation centers, 257 product manufacturers, and 13 testing facilities.

    License requirements

    Starting May 1, 2016, the Denver Excise and Licenses is prohibited from processing new cannabis business licenses (including retail stores and cultivation facilities). Instead, applications for these license types at new locations will be accepted via a lottery process.

    License requirements
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    Applicants who wish to enter the licensing process will have to submit a completed application form, along with supporting documents and fees to the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. The MED will then file a copy with the Denver Excise and Licenses, who will review the validity of the submission. If rejected, applicants will receive a letter from Denver Excise and Licenses explaining the reasoning behind the state’s decision. In the case of a successful outcome, the applicant will be notified that they are approved to file a licensing application.

    Colorado’s law allows counties and cities to set rules for growers and sellers. They’re even allowed to ban marijuana businesses if they choose. Be sure to check the local laws before you decide to open a business.

    Financial requirements

    Depending on location, costs for starting a marijuana business in Colorado can vary. Below you can find a detailed breakdown of all associated costs.

    State fees:

    Financial requirements
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    • Retail Marijuana Store: $4,500
    • Retail Marijuana Cultivation: $4,000
    • Retail Marijuana Products Mfg: $4,000
    • Retail Marijuana Testing Facility: $2,000
    • Retail Marijuana Transporter (2-yr license): $4,900
    • Retail Marijuana Operator: $2,700
    • Affiliated Interest (that is not an IBIO): $200
    • Commercially Reasonable Royalty Interest Holder with more than 30%: $400
    • Commercially Reasonable Royalty Interest Holder w/less than or equal to 30%: $200
    • Permitted Economic Interest $400 Profit Sharing Plan Employee: $200
    • Qualified Limited Passive Investor – Limited Initial Background Check: $75
    • Qualified Limited Passive Investor – Full background for reasonable cause: $125
    • Qualified Institutional Investor: $200

    Local fees:

    • Retail Marijuana Store: $2,500
    • Retail Marijuana Cultivation: $2,500
    • Retail Marijuana Products Manufacturing: $2,500
    • Retail Marijuana Testing Facility: $500
    • Retail Marijuana Transporter (2-yr license): $500
    • Retail Marijuana Operator: $500

    How much does a dispensary make?

    Marijuana dispensaries can make staggering amounts of money. Anywhere from $50,000 a year to tens of millions of dollars is a reasonable expectation.


    It can take some time to launch a cannabis business, due to the amount of licensing involved. It is best to plan on needing at least a year, but it can take longer, especially when you consider, suppliers and employees.

    Links – Image powered by

    Looking to start a marijuana dispensary in Colorado? These companies can consult you on licensing requirements and applications and help you find tools for running and stocking your business.

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