How to open a Dispensary in Iowa

Please note: ILGM is NOT a legal adviser. Information contained in this website is intended as general introductory information only. The information contained on this website is not legal advice. It should not be construed as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. 

Iowa first legalized medical marijuana for qualified patients in 2014 and extended its program in 2017. Low THC marijuana extracts are permitted for in-state use, although there are currently no marijuana businesses operating.

The marijuana program is being monitored by the State Board of Pharmacy, which is authorized to issue a total of 60 marijuana business licenses considering criteria like population and local zoning laws. Another interesting fact is that Iowa will only allow the distribution of medical CBD that is obtained from other states. Currently, licenses are scheduled to be issued across 31 dispensary districts. Below are the details on how to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Iowa.

When was cannabis made legal
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History of Iowa Cannabis Legislation

On the first of July 2014, Iowa’s medical marijuana law passed, providing access to medical cannabis to patients with resistant intractable epilepsy and their registered caregivers.

However, on May 12, 2017, Gov. Terry Brandstand signed H.B 524 (Act), legalizing the employment of low-THC cannabis oil for qualified patients. The law permits marijuana businesses to provide patients with in-state access to CBD oil by December 1st, 2018. The Department of Health has been tasked to manage and regulate the program, alongside the Medical Cannabidiol Board.

Current Marijuana Businesses

At present, there are not any marijuana businesses within the state. This should change by December of 2018 at the latest, as CBD-only medical marijuana will be allowed in Iowa at that time.

License requirements
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License Requirements

Those looking to start a medical marijuana dispensary in Iowa will need to meet the following requirements:

  • A single dispensary is allowed 5 licenses at a time. The stores must be open to patients by December 1st, 2018.
  • A dispensary will be able to dispense/sell medical CBD to patients registered by Iowa Department of Public Health.
  • Dispensaries can be placed anywhere in the state, depending on geographic demands.
  • The department shall license new medical cannabidiol or CBD dispensaries or relicense the existing medical cannabidiol dispensaries by December 1st of each year.

The State Board of Pharmacy can award dispensary licenses through a competitive choice method. The Board is allowed to issue up to 60 dispensary licenses. As a part of its obligation to think about geographic location when it begins licensing medical marijuana dispensaries, the Board established 31 dispensary districts. This is to ensure proper coverage by making dispensary licenses available in each district. The Board will consider these factors when awarding licenses:

  • Access to major Iowa roadways
  • Where patients are located
  • Iowa’s population
  • Existing compliance resources for the State Board of Pharmacy

How much does an Iowa marijuana dispensary make?

Iowa is a new market that permits CBD-only marijuana to a limited population. Despite this, setback, dispensaries should still be able to make at least $50,000 a year.


The process of setting up a marijuana business is a little more involved than in other industries. Allow at least a year to navigate the application process and set up your dispensary.

Consulting Companies

Looking to start a marijuana dispensary in Iowa? The marijuana consulting firms can advise you on the process. Get help with state licensing requirements and applications, and gain access to the resources you need for running and stocking your business.

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