How to open a Dispensary in Washington

The state of Washington has had medical cannabis since 1998, and in 2012, Washington became one of the first states to legalize adult recreational use, along with Colorado. The list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in this state includes cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, cachexia (wasting syndrome), intractable pain, nausea, seizures, persistent muscle spasms or spasticity, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more.

As a state that allows recreational marijuana, there are dispensaries; but, the application window is not currently open, so no new dispensaries can be open. However, it is important to be prepared for when it does open once again. The state has three types of licenses available to those wanting to work in the marijuana industry: producer, processor, and retailer. In this case, you would apply for a retailer license.

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    When was cannabis made legal
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    On November 6, 2012, Initiative 502 created the rules necessary to establish a dispensary system regulated by the state. Before that, licensed medical marijuana patients had to grow any weed they needed themselves.

    The initiative also legalized the possession of marijuana by adults 21 and older for recreational use. Washington legalized medical cannabis back in 1998 (Initiative 692), making it one of the earlier states in the United States to do so (along with some of its neighboring states).

    Washington’s marijuana market

    There are currently 247 registered medical marijuana dispensaries located in the state of Washington. The cap for recreational stores was increased in January 2016 to 556. In 2016, the market size was $1.3 billion. The Washington marijuana program combines the recreational and medical markets. Patients still require registration from their physicians and retailers may request a medical endorsement. However, the number of these endorsements is limited.

    Owner requirements

    Washington lets counties and cities set their own rules, meaning they can ban marijuana businesses if they choose. To be safe, check local laws before starting a marijuana business and be ready to choose a different location if necessary.

    License requirements

    The state of Washington is not currently accepting applications for medical, retailers, growers, producers and processors. However, you can prepare for the application in advance so that you will be prepared when it does reopen.

    Marijuana Retailers are allowed to sell only usable marijuana, marijuana-infused products, marijuana concentrates, and marijuana paraphernalia at retail outlets to persons who are 21 years of age or older. As with marijuana processors, there is a $266 application (non-refundable) and a $1,062 annual fee for issuance and renewal. You are limited to no more than three retail marijuana licenses. A licensee of multiple locations is not allowed more than thirty-three percent of the allowed licenses in any county or city.

    Applicants are also required to have specific plans in place for their retail store. This includes the following business plans:

    License requirements
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    • Business plan
    • Financial plan
    • Inventory plan
    • Suitability of proposed facility plan
    • Staffing plan
    • Security plan
    • Operations plan
    • Community engagement plan
    • Policies and procedures

    Additional plans that are a good idea but aren’t explicitly required include environmental plans, fire safety plans, product safety plans, record-keeping plans, transportation plans, and marketing/advertising plans.

    Financial requirements

    In addition to the application and legal fees listed above, opening a dispensary in Washington can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 or more so you may need to save up a bit.

    In terms of business opportunities, at this time, only marijuana transportation licenses are available. The application fee is $250. If you also want to register your business as a trade name, this will be an additional $5. A marijuana business license Application costs $19 (non-refundable).

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      How much does a marijuana dispensary in Washington make?

      Marijuana dispensaries can easily make anywhere from $50,000 a year to tens of millions of dollars.


      Starting a marijuana business typically takes at least a year, but in Washington State expect the process to take longer, due to their being no available licenses.

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      Looking to start a marijuana dispensary in Washington? These consulting firms can advise you on everything that you need to know.

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