Marijuana Retail Licensing USA: Everything You Need to Know

With the ever-increasing legalization of marijuana in several states, it's an exciting time for entrepreneurs to start their marijuana businesses.

While the industry is growing with each passing day yet, state laws are to determine who can cultivate and sell marijuana. Regardless, there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs who wish to join the industry.

If you are planning to set up a shop or supply chain, you cannot simply set up a shop and open the doors. Getting a marijuana license is important and it has hardly ever been easy or smooth!

There's no surprise that there's a lot of information available on licensing, however, most of it is really confusing. Are you facing the same trouble to start a marijuana business in the USA?

To help you get started, this article will introduce you to the key steps and things you would need to get CBD license 2021 in the USA. This article also covers a spectrum of information about state laws, application prerequisites, additional requirements, and much more.

Before you start filling out forms, make commitments, and spend both time and energy on nothing fruitful, here's your guide to gaining a depth understanding of many considerations linked with starting a marijuana business in the USA.

States that have Legalized Marijuana

With respect to the USA, many states have legalized the use of marijuana, whereas restrictions prevail in others. Read ahead to know about top states that have legalized marijuana and the type of business they permit!


Arizona permits both recreational and medical marijuana usage. Even though it has been declared legal but that comes with an age restriction of 21 years and older.

While you can start a business for either of the type i.e. recreational or medical marijuana, the state laws are quite strict with respect to the advertisement and environmental concerns.


California was one of the first states to legalize the use of marijuana for patients with qualifying and advancing illnesses. By 2016, the use of recreational marijuana also became legal in California. However, the age limitation exists here as well.

People with age 21 or older can obtain and use marijuana. However, adults are also allowed to make a purchase and gift the product to one another as far there's no money involved in the process.

New York

Since 2014, medical marijuana is legal in NY for patients alone. However, dispensaries are allowed to sell any form of marijuana except for smoke-able products. The use of recreational marijuana is not permitted yet but it is expected to get legalized by 2023.

Apart from sales, there is no home growing of cannabis allowed in New York yet. But here’s the news!

A new law has emphasized the state to put rules into place for recreational users so that they be able to grow their own marijuana by the start of 2023.


Since 1998, medical marijuana has been legal in Washington. Fast forward to 2012, the state legalized the use of recreational marijuana as well.

Even though the consumption was legal but the retail businesses and sales of cannabis weren't permitted until 2104. However, there is now great potential for the marijuana business in Washington.


The restrictions aren’t rigid in Oregon as adults of age 21 and older are allowed to purchase and consume marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes.

However, children need to be 18 years and older to consume marijuana for medical purposes alone. The heavenly combination of Oregon soil and sun provides an opportunity for farmers to grow an abundance of marijuana on their farms.

Therefore, efforts are being made to get the growing of marijuana legalized so that it can be exported to other states which have legalized the purchase, consumption, and marijuana retail license.

Get Familiar With Your State’s Procedures

Since 2020, there have been a lot of developments in the cannabis industry. Thus, it has become evident that people who wish to be license holders are unlikely to succeed without a solid business plan.

As there are constant changes in the regulatory process, entrepreneurs need to be highly aware, knowledgeable, and planned about everything.

To help you give an idea, you need to begin with researching and understanding the CBD industry.

Understating the state laws, application, and eligibility requirements are critically important to get familiar with the restrictions and laws which could impact your license application.

For Example, You cannot go for retail marijuana without obtaining a marijuana dispensary license in Washington. The department of Washington state liquor and cannabis board is responsible for granting licenses to such businesses.

Above all, make sure you gather enough knowledge about the local restriction and requirements as well, thus avoiding any delays in the application process.

For example, You cannot apply for a state license if you haven't obtained a local license in California. Do you know what else? California isn't the only state with the requirement of a local license.

Thus, your early research can help you not only with the smooth application process but the possibility to succeed as well.

How to Apply For a Marijuana License?

With all your research and application requirements in place, it's time to apply for a marijuana retail license.

Just like any other business, licensing is the foundation for the growth of the CBD business. Above all, the high-risk business of CBD demands a complete obligation to state and local requirements, to avoid severe apprehensions and consequences.

Before you formally begin with the application process, keep in mind that your application needs to be as honest as it can be. Moreover, every state's licensing requirements are different as well.

Here's a general criterion of application, which may help you guide CBD business licensing procedure!

  • Review Laws

Begin with researching the local laws and regulations governing both adult and child use of recreational and medical marijuana usage.

This should be done to know about the licensing requirements and eligibility in the city you wish to operate your business.

  • Develop Plans

The next step is to devise operational plans for your business but remember that they must include all the items required in the regulation.

Why is it important? Let me tell you that you would need these plans when you submit the application to the commission for other licenses.

These plans in your application may include a business plan, positive impact plan, diversity plan, etc. as per you're the business you wish to establish. 

  • Gain Information

Gather and mention information about persons and entities to be listed on the license and those who will have control over the business.

The person and entities that are to be mentioned on the application are defined by each state’s distinct regulations.

  • Host Community Agreement

You may then have to host a community agreement meeting to get in touch with the municipality for a host community agreement. As part of the process, you must attach a signed copy of the host community agreement along.

The host community agreement serves as proof that the commencement of the host community meeting with the municipality has been done.

  • Submit Application

Now is the time you have been waiting! Submit your application to the designated commission department and look for any background fees for submission as well.

  • Await for Approval

The Commission department will review your application based on when it was submitted. Once it would be done, the applicant would get notified via email.

The commission performs an inspection of fingerprinting on all the documents attached. It usually takes up to 90 days after application submission, for the commission to either grant a provisional license or rejection.

A certificate is also sent to the municipality to inform them that your application complies with local codes and regulations. Once all these steps are fulfilled, the Commission considers the application for granting the final license.

  • Operational Inspection

Before you formally begin with the business an operational inspection would be done that would allow you to commence and operate the functions of your business successfully.

Application Prerequisites:

The marijuana industry is highly competitive, thus thousands of applications are filtered out and rejected based on some prerequisites that don't meet the fixed criteria. Read ahead to know how you can make it to the mark!

  • A comprehensive business plan

When an industry is growing and competitive at the same time, just the like marijuana industry, your business plan needs to look highly professional. Moreover, you must sound plan via the business plan to get started with your business.

A business plan indeed separated you from the crowd and emphasize the urgency why you should be granted a license than other applicants in the queue.

Since there are a lot of people getting into the industry but aren’t intrinsically motivated for it. Thus, you need to understand why you are getting into the business and why is it important!

  • A compliant rental property

A compliant property means different things in different states. Many states require documents of property along with the license application to know that you are actually prepared and willing to step into the industry.

A compliant property doesn't only mean abiding by the laws and regulations. It stands for other factors as well. For instance, if you are looking for a property, make sure it is convenient and compliant with the needs of the community as well.

Moreover, a compliant property demands you to be honest with the landlord as well. Since CBD is a high-risk business, landlords often aren't supportive once they get to know about what are your plans regarding the property you just rented.

  • Your own commitment and eligibility

Last but not the least, you need to ask yourself if you are ready to step into the marijuana business. Just like another retail business, CBD isn't free of challenges, however, it's more testing than any other retail business. Therefore, an analysis of personal commitment is important, to begin with.

Moreover, certain states have their eligibility requirement for cannabis store license which needs to be met. However, certain states with no defined laws and regulations about CBD.

Thus, opening a store in such a state is a risky endeavor as it may either shut down or keep running for years. Considering the amount of effort it takes to open up, make sure to take a legal way!

Audit Your Business Plan

In some states you need to file your organizational documents to the Secretary’s State office, however, in some cases, you would have it submit the paperwork with the local agencies.

With respect to the USA, potential entrepreneurs can apply to one of the three following agencies.

But before you audit your business plan, certain issues need to be resolved. Here’s what you need to know about it!

  • Access to the capital for your business
  • Mapped out funding
  • Business plan and how much it costs
  • Your strategy to attract customers
  • Knowledge about competitors and how will you set your business apart
  • Where you’ll operate your business and who are the suppliers
  • Legal consultant to help you deal with the paperwork

Understanding, clarity and planned draft for all the preceding issues in your business plan is likely to influence the chances that your license application gets approved by the commission. Now, the rest is up to you to do!

Paperwork and Documents:

Regardless of the type of marijuana business, you're interested in, the basic legal requirement applies to all. While these may vary from state to state, a general overview of required documents is as follows:

  • A copy of valid photo identification with the applicant’s date of birth issued by a local, state, or federal government. The applicant must be 21 years or older.
  • Submission of fingerprint form as specified by the board for purpose of obtaining evidence of any criminal history
  • An organizational chart of the applicant and other individuals along with names and designation of each individual
  • Any agreement document between any two or more people that relate in any manner to the business of the applicant.
  • Documentation of all sources of funding acquired for developing the business.
  • A certificate of status or good standing from the governing state agency of the state of formation
  • A certificate of authority to do business in the state if the applicant is a foreigner
  • A list of the supplier(s) with which the applicant has agreed with the business.
  • A list of each financier of the applicant, and a copy of all financier agreements, if any;
  • Any additional information requested by the board of state

Apart from the important documentation, an interview is also held with the regulatory board, which discusses the business plan, marketing, funding, and capital for your business. All the preceding paperwork and documents are analyzed and introspected by the panel.

Moreover, state requirements regarding marketing, labeling, and advertisement are also thoroughly discussed with the applicant while he's being assessed for being capable of running a marijuana retail business in the USA.

Additional Requirements:

Apart from the preceding documents, regulators may ask for additional information, depending on the state where you wish to establish your business. Here’s what they may ask for!

  • The tax ID number is also your employer identification number. The IRS needs this number to keep track of and identify any business information related to taxes.
  • A general business license allows you to legally operate in your country. But wait! Remember that it is different from authorization to run the business.
  • Permits are also required based on the type of business you wish to establish. For instance, a food preparation business would require a permit from the health department. Business permits are required for land usage, zoning, etc.

What to Do After Obtaining a License?

After surpassing the major challenge, the hustle to attract customers remains!

Thus, your next step must be to establish your business. For this purpose, you must research ways to market your products and grab the attention of the customers.

Moreover, efforts must be put into the packaging and labeling of your product so that people would know by a look what they are getting in response to the amount they are paying!

Local approval

Not only does a new business require a state business license, but the need for local approval cannot be overlooked. While a state license permits the operationalization of the business, the local license is for the jurisdiction the business is located in.

This license provides important guidelines about the labeling, packaging, marketing, and content of the products. Businesses with local approval must expect a random inspection by boards to test if the products comply with the regulation.

The local approval may take up to 15-30 days which would then simply indicate that you are good to go!

Tax and Finance issues:

When the term sales tax is used it refers to the taxes imposed on the retail sales. Just like every other restriction, states vary in their tax imposition as well.

Two general types of taxes are as follows:

  • Seller taxes are due on retailers for being able to make retail sales in the state. Retailers have the option of either paying the tax through their own pocket or passing it on to the purchasers.
  • State-specific taxes vary as per the state regulations. States which apply this type of tax consider sellers as agents which collect the tax on behalf of the state.

Consultant for Marijuana retail business

While this is a lot of tedious information and process to get a retail license, the need for a consultant is necessary!

Getting a consultant for your business proceeding can keep you informed about the policy changes.

Moreover, they can guide you on how to win a license, and set up and operate your marijuana business successfully.


While marijuana retail license laws keep on evolving, it's important to stay ahead of time. While this would be a lot of information to process but you don't need to rush the process. Make sure to meet the major requirements to get your business started

Author - Noah Nicholls

Noah Nicholls is a full-time Writer, Traveler, and Marketing Expert who is Currently Working for CBD-Boxes. Noah Nicholls writing relates to a range of subjects such as CBD and health.


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