Medical marijuana has become a prominent industry in the state of Florida. A report from 2019 showed that the Florida dispensaries are surging, with almost 2 dispensaries and over 10,000 new patients signing up each week. Even though recreational use is still illegal, it’s a profitable state for the marijuana industry. With so many medical marijuana patients and a marijuana-friendly culture, entrepreneurs may want to know how to open a dispensary in Florida.

The brutal truth about opening a dispensary in Florida is that, in most cases, you can’t. Dispensary applications are handled by the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) and they even have the application form online. However, the OMMU is currently not accepting new dispensary applications. The state only issues a limited number of dispensary licenses, so you may need to wait a while before you can apply.

With that said, it can still help to learn about the process of starting a dispensary in Florida. If you’re committed, you can arrange everything you need to open a dispensary for the future. There may even be the opportunity to open recreational cannabis stores in the future if the state legalizes marijuana. Here’s what you need to know about opening a dispensary in Florida.

Can I Open a Medical Marijuana Dispensary In Florida?

The Sunshine State has a thriving medical marijuana program operated by the Florida OMMU. There are now many physical locations where medical marijuana patients can buy the products they need around the state. However, there is only a limited number of license holders- in 2019, MJBizDaily noted that 82% of dispensaries in the state were operated by just 5 licensed businesses.

As of right now, you can’t open a medical marijuana dispensary in Florida. The OMMU only issues a limited number of licenses to dispensary businesses. What’s more, with so many dispensaries currently in the state, there is no urgent need for newly licensed businesses to open dispensaries.

That doesn’t mean you should be completely put off the idea. New licenses will be given out in the future, and if you prepare for the application process, you can get in line fast. Plus, the number of medical marijuana patients in Florida continues to grow and recreational use may even be legal in the future. As such, it can still help to learn about how to open a dispensary in Florida.

How To Get A Dispensary License in Florida

Before you open a medical marijuana dispensary in Florida, you need to get a license. As well as handling the usual legal requirements for opening a business, such as legally registering it with the state and country where you plan to operate, you’ll also need a marijuana business license.

You can find information about the Application Process for opening a dispensary from the Florida Department of Health Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) website. Applications are currently not open and many applicants are still waiting to be approved. However, you may still have the opportunity in the future.

The process of opening a dispensary in Florida is very strict. You must fulfill various requirements and prove that you’re qualified to open and run a dispensary if you even want a chance of being approved. As such, it’s best to only aim to open a dispensary in Florida if you’re experienced in the industry and committed to the idea.

You can view the previous dispensary application form online if you want to get an idea of the information you need to supply. You’ll need to fill in details about yourself, your operation, and your medical director. You’ll also need to provide supporting evidence that you’re proficient enough to run a dispensary, based on a scorecard provided by the OMMU.

After completing the application, it needs to be sent to the Agency Clerk of the Department of

Health along with a series of supporting documents and other materials. The supporting materials can be sent on a CD/DVD, USB Drive, or Hard Drive. However, keep in mind that when dispensary applications open again, the application requirements may change.

Requirements To Open A Dispensary In Florida

Opening a dispensary in Florida is subject to various strict requirements. You must provide various supporting materials to prove that you qualify to run a dispensary if you want your application to be successful. You’ll also want to ensure your business qualifies based on the scorecards used by the Department of Health.

Here is a summary of the list of requirements for opening a dispensary in Florida from the 2018 Florida Statutes.

  • Applicants must have been registered to do business in Florida for at least 5 consecutive years before applying. If you plan to open a dispensary in the future, make sure you’re registered now.

  • A valid certificate of registration issued by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

  • Your operation must have the technical and technological ability to cultivate and produce marijuana (including low-THC cannabis)

  • You must have the ability to secure your premises, resources, and personnel to operate as a medical marijuana treatment center

  • You must have the ability to maintain accountability of all raw materials, finished products, and any byproducts to prevent diversion or unlawful access to any of these possessions.

  • Your operation needs an infrastructure that’s reasonably located to dispense marijuana to registered qualified patients within the state or region.

  • You must have the financial ability to maintain the operations of your dispensary for at least 2 years, including the provision of certified financial statements to the department.

  • Once your application is approved, you must post a $5 million performance bond issued by an authorized surety insurance company. Medical marijuana treatment centers serving at least 1,000 patients are only required to maintain a $2 million performance bond.

  • All owners, officers, board members, and managers of your dispensary must pass a background screening.

  • You must employ a qualified medical director to supervise the activities of your medical marijuana dispensary.

  • You need a diversity plan promoting and ensuring the involvement of minority persons and business enterprises or veteran business enterprises in ownership, management, and employment. Renewing your license also requires that you show the effectiveness of your diversity plan.

Where’s The Best Place To Open A Dispensary In Florida?

If you’re thinking of starting a dispensary in Florida in the future, one of the most important considerations is where to operate. There are many important considerations to take into account here and you might want to do some research into different areas in the state to decide where’s best.

For one, it might be preferable to choose a location where you won’t have tough competition. Currently, coastal towns and most major cities are packed with dispensaries- especially in South Florida. You might want to look into towns and cities that don’t have local dispensaries, especially in North Florida where there are less open dispensaries.

Keep in mind that different counties in Florida have different laws and regulations, so you’ll also want to consider these. You’ll also want to find out how many medical marijuana patients (or prospective patients) are in different areas so you can figure out how much of a demand there is for marijuana in each location.

It can be tough to find a suitable commercial property for your business and you might even want to talk to a real estate agent with experience in dealing with dispensaries. You’ll want somewhere with plenty of space that’s also close to plenty of marijuana patients.

Financing A Dispensary in Florida

Another one of the major challenges of opening a dispensary in Florida is how to fund it. Although dispensaries can be profitable in the long-run, the costs of opening and maintaining your dispensary can be extremely high. As such, you’re going to need some serious financial help.

Not only do you need to consider general startup costs such as the costs of your premises, staffing, stock, equipment, and marketing, but the licensing costs alone can be extremely high. The application fee for a dispensary license in Florida is $60,036, much higher than other states. It can also be costly to fulfill all the requirements and get all the documentation you need.

Getting a business loan from the bank is usually out of the question. Since marijuana is still federally illegal, banks won’t give a loan to such a high-risk business. As such, you’re going to need to seek alternative methods of funding. Make sure you write a thorough business plan first and figure out how much funding you need to get your business up and running.

Most marijuana businesses get funding from investors. There are a few ways to go about this. You can reach out to Angel Investors online or pitch to investors through Linkedin or cannabis business events. You can also get funding from Cannabis Equity Firms or Cannabis Business Incubators. However, you’ll need to offer equity in your business to get the capital you need.

How to Prepare For Opening A Dispensary in Florida

While you can’t apply for a dispensary license right now, you can start planning for the future. If you want a legally licensed marijuana business in Florida, it’s best to start doing everything you need for the process as soon as possible. Make sure you fulfill all of the requirements set by the state and get your documentation together.

One of the most important ways you can prepare to open a dispensary is to write a thorough Business Plan outlining your objectives, goals, and how you plan to operate. You’ll also need a Cultivation Plan, Processing/Manufacturing Plan, Employee Manual, Environmental Plan, Financial Plan, Fire Safety Plan, Inventory Control Plan, Record keeping Plan, Patient Education Plan, Product Safety Plan, Security Plan, Staffing Plan, Suitability of Proposed Facility Plan, and Transportation Plan.

Getting these plans together in advance will help significantly when it comes to applying for a marijuana business license. It helps to talk with experienced marijuana business consultants or even have business planning experts help you. Once you start getting your plans together, you can also work on securing funding and an appropriate location for your dispensary.

The process is long and complicated but the earlier you start to plan, the easier it will be. Keep in mind that if you want to avoid the time and hassle of opening a dispensary, you can also consider other business ideas in the marijuana industry.

Other Florida Marijuana Business Ideas

As rewarding as opening a dispensary can be, it’s difficult to open a dispensary in Florida. Not only are applications currently closed, but the application process is long, grueling, and costly. However, if you’re an eager entrepreneur who wants to get a foothold in the marijuana industry, there are other ideas to consider.

Special licensing is only required for businesses that handle marijuana directly, such as dispensaries, growers, and manufacturers. As such, you’ll find it much easier to open an ancillary service that supports the marijuana industry without ever touching the product itself.

There are many options you could consider. Some people take their professional skills such as Accounting, Legal Expertise, or Human Resources and apply them to the marijuana industry. Marijuana businesses are always looking for professional experts who cater specifically to the industry, especially since it’s a unique and complicated sector.

You could also consider other types of products. For example, the 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to produce and sell hemp-based CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC. These have become a popular alternative to medical cannabis, especially as they’re much easier to obtain and it’s much easier to open a hemp business.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking to open a dispensary in Florida soon, you’re going to be let down. You might need to wait a while for applications to reopen and, even then, you’ll have to go through a complicated application process to even be considered.

With that said, you can start preparing if you’re committed to opening a dispensary in the Sunshine State. You can also consider various other business ideas that support the industry. If you want to know more about medical marijuana and dispensaries in Florida, you can discover it here.