How to Open a Marijuana Dispensary in Washington
By Maddy Teka, Esq. | Reviewed by Bridget Molitor, JD | Last updated April 21, 2020
Medical marijuana has been legal in Washington state since 1998. In 2012, the state also decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana. Since then, the cannabis industry has boomed, and entrepreneurs have opened successful businesses. While most businesses come with risk, however, the cannabis industry is particularly risky, with numerous complex regulations and requirements.
If you are interested in starting your own cannabis business and running a dispensary, take the time to understand Washington’s rules and regulations for marijuana businesses. The table below outlines the relevant laws that you need to be aware of before opening a dispensary in Washington.
Are There Different Types of Licenses Available?
There are three types of licenses are available for dispensaries;
Each application has a unique set of requirements.
Criminal History That Might Prevent You From Getting a License
The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board will do background checks, so applicants should disclose any criminal history.
The board uses a point-based system to determine which crimes bar a person from obtaining a license. The board will not issue licenses to people who are assigned eight points or higher. For instance, a person will not qualify for a dispensary permit with a felony conviction (felonies are generally assigned 12 points).
You can find a list of crimes that might bar an applicant from obtaining a license on the Washington State LegislatureвЂ™s website.
How Old do You Need to Be to Open a Dispensary?
You must be over 21 years old to apply for a license
Is There a Residency Requirement to Open a Dispensary?
You must reside in the state of Washington for at least six months prior to filing an application
Where Can Your Dispensary Be?
Revised Code of Washington (RCW) section 69.50.331(8) prohibits licensing of premises within one thousand feet of the following facilities:
- Primary and secondary schools
- Recreational facilities
- Public parks
- Public transit centers
- Child care centers
Cities and counties can reduce the distance to a minimum of 100 feet by enacting ordinances. Exceptions apply.
How Much Are the Application Costs to Open a Dispensary?
You need to pay a nonrefundable $250 application fee.
You should also keep in mind the capitalization requirements and indirect costs that come up when starting a business. According to Marijuana Business News, these costs range from $43,900 to $135,000.
Hours of Operation
The state law permits cannabis businesses to operate between 8 a.m.вЂ“12 a.m.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Who Is Responsible for Issuing Licenses?
The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board is responsible for licensing and regulating WashingtonвЂ™s cannabis industry. You will need to check with the board to determine whether it is accepting new applications for licenses.
Who Qualifies for a Marijuana License?
Individuals and business entities can qualify for a license if the license is issued in the names of вЂњthe true party of interest.вЂќ Sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and corporations are among the parties that would qualify as parties of interest. Look at WAC 314-55-035 to see who qualifies.
Once you submit your application to get a marijuana license, a marijuana investigator from the board will contact you to ensure you have presented the required documents. Before the board starts processing your application, it needs to obtain the following information:
- Information about your business location and structure, including floor plans, lease information, purchase agreements
- Forms on your proposed business structure.
- Information on your criminal history
- Information verifying your identity. This includes a copy of approved identification and your fingerprint cards
- Information about your finances, including a source of funds statement, a copy of your tax returns and previous bank statements
- Sworn statements and affidavits
Was Your Marijuana License Application Denied?
The board might deny your application for a number of reasons. If that happens, you have one of two options; request an administrative hearing as per the Administrative Procedure Act of the state, or re-apply when the board opens applications again.
Is There a Limit on How Much I Can Sell in a Dispensary?
Although Washington has decriminalized marijuana, you still canвЂ™t sell marijuana beyond the specified limit. Section 15 of the Initiative measure No. 502 states that in one day, a licensed retailer can only sell either:
- 1 ounce of useable marijuana; or
- 72 ounces of liquid form marijuana-infused products
Note: At the time this article was written, Washington state was not accepting applications for producers, retailers, processors, and growersвЂ™ licenses. You should visit the boardвЂ™s website to see when applications do open.
Are the Laws Similar Throughout the State?
Washington law gives cities and counties broad powers to regulate the cannabis industry in their respective areas. For instance, a city may reduce the licensing of dispensaries located less than 1,000 feet from the facilities listed above. Note, however, that the distance cannot be less than 100 feet.
City ordinances may also limit the number of dispensaries allowed in a state. The, City of Everett, for instance, limits the number of cannabis businesses to only five stores. Similarly, the Renton Ordinance No. 5816 limits marijuana shops in the city of Renton to five retail stores.
- Marijuana Business: Licenses, Permits, and Planning
- Washington State Laws
- Details on State Marijuana Laws
Do You Need an Attorney to Assist With Opening a Dispensary?
Getting the appropriate documents ready and making sure you have complied with all the regulatory requirements may prove to be difficult because the cannabis industry is heavily regulated in Washington. You may want to find a Washington cannabis business and commercial attorney to assist with the process.
If you are interested in running a dispensary in Washington, you need to consider the state rules and regulations surrounding marijuana businesses. Read FindLaw's article to learn the legal requirements for starting a marijuana dispensary.
If your potential business will be involved with the production, processing, or retailing of marijuana then you need a marijuana license.
Fee and Description Sheet: English | Korean | Spanish
For more information on Marijuana Fee’s and Discriptions please visit the Business Licensing Service’s Marijuana Web Page.
- Producer license descriptions and fees – Not accepting new applications
- Processor license descriptions and fees – Not accepting new applications
- Retailer license description and fees – Not accepting new applications
- Transportation License
- Marijuana Research License
- Cooperatives Registration Application:English | Korean | Spanish
Change Applications – Use these forms to make changes to an existing license
Please mail applications to the Liquor and Cannabis Board – PO Box 43098, Olympia, WA 98504-3098
Note: If your application is pending, these forms do not apply to you. If you have any questions please call Customer Service at 360-664-1600 [email protected]..
All fees are non-refundable. Make check(s) payable to WSLCB.
Business Licensing Services Applications – These changes must be started through BLS
These applications must be mailed to BLS, who will then send the application for continued processing to the LCB. This stage of the process can vary in the length of time that it takes. After the application is assigned to a Licensing Specialist they will contact you to discuss the next steps in the application process.
A marijuana license is an endorsement on your Business License issued by the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR) Business Licensing Service. You must complete the Business License Application even if you already have a Business License, along with a Liquor and Cannabis Board Marijuana Addendum.
If you are forming a corporation or limited liability company (LLC), you must register with the Washington Secretary of State’s (SOS) office before filing an application with BLS. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) will not issue a license to a corporation or LLC that is not registered with the SOS. Be sure to include the UBI number issued by the SOS for all license applications and filings.
Note: SOS filing fees are non-refundable and all information received by SOS is public record.
You may need additional local, state and federal licenses for your business that are not covered under the Business License Application. There may be other mandatory permitting/licensing requirements from other regulatory agencies that need to be fulfilled before starting construction. For more information use the link Other Regulatory Requirements.
To receive this document in an alternate format, please call 1-800-647-7706. Teletype (TTY) users may use the Washington Relay Service by calling 711. BLS 700-306 (10/13/15).
*Additional forms or documents may be required by the individual agency.
Marijuana Licensing If your potential business will be involved with the production, processing, or retailing of marijuana then you need a marijuana license. Fee and Description Sheet: