How much does it cost to start a dispensary

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Summary

The cost of opening a cannabis dispensary ranges from $150,000 to $2 million. That includes key costs of around $250,000 for annual staffing, $100,000 in yearly rent, and $50,000 for up-front renovations. Of course, everyone’s budget is different, and a lot of depends on your capital requirements. Some costs are in your control; others are tied to the jurisdiction you’re in. But cultivators can hit profitability fairly quickly – often after the first harvest – and many find it relatively easy to stay in the black.

Despite all the challenges, regulations and roadblocks the cannabis industry faces, the vast majority of marijuana companies are actually doing well financially.

Nearly 90% of operating dispensaries and recreational marijuana stores, infused products companies and wholesale cultivators report that they are profitable or at least breaking even.

So how much does it cost to start a dispensary?

The cost of opening a cannabis dispensary ranges from $150,000 to $2 million. That includes key costs of around $250,000 for annual staffing, $100,000 in yearly rent, and $50,000 for up-front renovations. Of course, everyone’s budget is different, and a lot of depends on your capital requirements. Some costs are in your control; others are tied to the jurisdiction you’re in.

Cost Breakdown

Licensing

The first step in opening a dispensary is getting a license. The licensing process, which varies based on location, is extensive and expensive. Expect to undergo thorough background checks and spend at least $5,000 on licensing fees.

Often, the number of licenses granted by the state are capped and only available by purchasing one off of a current licensee. This can run upwards of $25,000 plus legal fees, if you’re unable to get one yourself.

Location

Location is everything, but it may be in short supply. There are usually strict rules about how close a dispensary can be to a school, and often how close it can be to another dispensary. Finding a retail space that will allow a dispensary to operate on the premises is only half the battle, as you also need to find an area that has good visibility and ideally high foot traffic.

You’ll probably pay a premium for being in the cannabis business. Annual real estate for marijuana store expenses might run $100,000.

The Cost of Cannabis-Friendly Banking

The legal ambiguity of cannabis creates a tenuous relationship with state-legal businesses. Most banks refuse to take on the risk. Others, like local credit unions, upcharge for their services and the risk incurred. And some banks charge up to $2,000 in holding fees every month for cannabis businesses. So some shopping around is definitely in order so you can find the best fit for your blossoming business.

Cost to Implement Security Features in Cannabis Dispensary 

Security and surveillance are of paramount importance in marijuana dispensaries. Be it because of heavy dealing in cash or due to legal issues revolving around its sale and purchase, security has to be tight–especially so that it meets with your State’s approval and highest score.

For the sake of this, its crucial that marijuana dispensaries invest in substantial security and surveillance to avoid any kind of risks associated with the business. $50,000 is the basic cost for security structuring in a marijuana dispensary.

Equipment and Technology

You will need display counters, Point of Sale (POS) systems, security systems, computers, video menu boards, furniture, scales and much more to properly outfit your dispensary to the standards people expect these days. Anticipate investing at least $30k in your furniture and fixtures, but potentially far more.  You may want to enlist the help of some brands and distributors in exchange for the marketing of their products.

Staffing

You can’t just open up the day your certificate of occupancy arrives in the mail. You need a talented, well trained staff to take care of your patients and clients. It will take some money to recruit, sign and train them at least for a week or so prior to the grand opening.  Below is an annual average salary breakdown of a typical dispensary startup that’s been in the business for a few years.

Director of Extraction

Oversees all cannabis extraction and refinement operations. This includes facility design, laboratory setup, standard operating procedure development, regulatory compliance, hiring, training and personnel management. Responsible for ensuring all cannabis extracted products are produced safely, efficiently, and consistently.

Director of Cultivation

Oversees all cultivation operations to ensure the production of compliant and high-quality cannabis. Establishes all standard operating procedures, nutrient and harvest schedules, integrated pest management programs, hiring, training and personnel management. Responsible for ensuring the highest levels of plant health, potency, and production.

Compliance Manager

Ensures local, state, and federal compliance with all laws and regulations. Implements a company-wide program, which includes seed to sale tracking and internal compliance audits. Anticipates and tracks pending and current laws and regulations. Creates new policies and procedures as necessary and ensures the staff has an understanding of all compliance requirements.

Trimmer

Manicures and prepares all harvested flower product to be sold in medical and recreational cannabis retail locations.

Budtender

Provides excellent customer service to all patients and customers in medical and recreational dispensaries. Uses point of sale system and other technology to ensure all cannabis product sales are properly tracked. Provides information to customers on product choices, consumption methods, compliance, and safety. Remains up to date on all cannabis regulations to ensure compliance within the dispensary.

Dispensary Store Manager

Oversee day-to-day operations of a medical or recreational cannabis retail location. Create standard operating procedures, develop inventory processes, and ensure dispensary is fully compliant with all state and federal regulations. Responsible for hiring, training, and managing all dispensary staff.

Outside Sales Representative

Focuses on sales strategies and account management to build value in the marketplace. An Outside Sales Representative develops relationships into new accounts in order to meet sales goals and manages existing accounts using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. They enhance product branding and increase sales through the training and education of retail partners and customers.

How much does a dispensary owner make a year?

In some instances, cannabis dispensary owners earn well over $1 million annually. But more commonly, CEOs and master growers can command six-figure salaries along with equity in the company or dispensary.

Do dispensaries make a lot of money?

Despite all the challenges and regulations, nearly 90% of operating dispensaries, wholesale cultivators, and infused products companies report that they are profitable. 15 percent of those that responded to this survey report annual revenues between $500,000 and $1 million. Various businesses in the industry report annual sales that climb as high as $10 million, while dispensaries located in remote areas bring in closer to $3 million.

In terms of profitability, dispensaries often break even, or make a moderate gain compared to their costs.

But when you look at dispensaries compared to other ancillary products and services that are designed to help support the cultivation and distribution of cannibus, you’ll start to see a more appropriate reason for why many call the marijuana industry the “green rush.”

Back in the late 1800’s when the Gold Rush was in full effect, gold miners rarely got rich. It was actually those that created tools to help gold miners that made the real money. Producers of shovels, weights, belts, machinery and dynamite were raking in the profits. You can see the same trend in the marijuana industry.

Companies that produced products to help support dispensaries and budding cannibus cultivators appear to have a higher chance at being very profitable compared to medical dispensaries and recreational stores.

Conclusion

It takes a good chunk of change (and most likely an outside investor) to get a dispensary open and started. There is also a lot of legal complexities to the cannibus industry as laws frequently change based on the political atmosphere.

Although a dispensary is fairly profitable, and a relatively low amount of owners report losing money on their investment, a smart play could be to develop services or tools dispensaries need, as the potential for higher profitability is much greater.

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