How to Open a Dispensary in Illinois

There are currently 56 active marijuana businesses in Illinois, and cultivation centers are operating in 17 districts of the state. The legislature is far from finalized, as there is a clause that states that Illinois will either have to extend it or pass a new version by the end of 2018. With an estimated revenue of more than $225 million, the Illinois medical cannabis market seems like a lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurs.

Let’s look at the details regarding the licensing process, fees, and requirements for opening a marijuana dispensary in Illinois.

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    The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act (HB 1) was first enacted in 2013 in order to create a temporary cannabis distribution program for qualifying patients within the state.

    HB 1 specifies 35 qualifying conditions but excludes chronic pain, the main reason to use medical cannabis for treatment around the world.

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    It also allows patients to obtain up to 5 ounces of cannabis every month from one of the 60 dispensing organizations, that will be supplied by 22 cultivation centers (one per district).

    Caregivers and patients are excluded from cultivation licensure. Public safety officials, minors, police and correctional officers, school bus and commercial drivers, firefighters, and anyone convicted of a drug-related felony are not eligible for the program.

    How many dispensaries are there currently in the state

    The state law has provisions for up to 60 dispensary licenses on the condition that there are sufficient qualified and geographically dispersed applicants.

    The first round of applications ended and the state has reviewed 214 medical cannabis dispensary applications. 56 applicants were issued a license and advanced to the registration stage. By November 9th, 2015, eight are currently in operation.

    The Illinois Department of Agriculture has authorized cultivation centers to begin operating in 17 of the 22 districts.

    How much money is there in the dispensary market

    Potential profits of medical marijuana sales in Illinois are expected to reach $225,000,000 per year, while marijuana price per ounce will be around $325.

    The patient base in the state of Illinois will reach 30,000, and each of them will be consuming around 23lbs. per year. In its first year of operation, the marijuana industry will create more than 1,500 jobs statewide.

    Owner & License requirements

    Requirements for prospective business owners are strict: Applicants must undergo fingerprint background check, disclosure any past bankruptcy, defaults on student loans, child support or alimony, and they must release full tax returns for previous years.

    No medical marijuana licensing dates are forthcoming, although petitions to add debilitating medical conditions or diseases to the Illinois medical cannabis program are accepted from January 1 through January 31, and July 1 through July 31 each year.

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    There is a sunset clause (Section 220) in the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, ending the program by December 2018, unless Illinois chooses to extend it.

    Financial requirements

    Illinois is among the most expensive options for marijuana entrepreneurs. Most interested parties drop out when they learn the actual financial requirements.

    The costs associated with the application for a dispensary in Illinois are:

    • Non-refundable application fee for a dispensary permit: $5,000
    • Once issued a permit, $30,000 permit fee for the first year
    • Annual permit renewal: $100,000
    • Applicants are required to demonstrate $400,000 in liquid assets and $50,000 in escrow

    There are also some extra fees associated with the operation of the dispensary:

    • Dispensary Registration Renewal Fee= $25,000
    • Dispensing Agent Renewal Fee= $50
    • Dispensing Agent Identification card replacement Fee= $50
    • Dispensary Registration Replacement Fee= $50


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    It will take some time to open a dispensary in Illinois, even if you have the money. The process to get licensed has many steps, and when combined with the normal amount of time that it takes to start a business, it can take well over a year.

    Looking to start a marijuana dispensary in Illinois? The consulting firms provide numerous services – including helping with state licensing requirements and applications.

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