How to Open a Dispensary in Washington State

Washington is a weed lover’s dream state. Since the late 90s, this gem of the Pacific Northwest has been at the forefront of cannabis legalization. 

Since Washington is one of America’s most established marijuana markets, it’s also one of the more competitive states for up-in-coming “cannapreneurs.” Still, considering the “high” demand for weed in this state, opening a new dispensary could be a lucrative decision.

If you’re thinking about entering Washington’s dispensary game, then you should know the state’s current cannabis standards. Let’s quickly run through the Evergreen State’s marijuana laws and explain how you could submit a winning retailer application.

What’s Washington State’s Stance On Cannabis? 

A Brief History Of Washington State’s Marijuana Laws

Washington State made national headlines in 1998 when it passed one of the first medical marijuana programs in the USA. Officially called I-692, this progressive law allowed patients with qualifying conditions to apply for a medical marijuana card.

While I-692 paved the way toward legal cannabis, Washington State flung the doors wide open with the passage of I-502 in 2012. Officially called the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Initiative, I-502 made it legal for adults in Washington State to buy and sell recreational marijuana.

Soon after residents voted for legal adult-use marijuana, the Washington State Liquor Board was re-named the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB). Anyone who wants to apply to be a cannabis retailer, producer, or cultivator must go through the WSLCB’s website.

What Are Washington State’s Cannabis Limits? 

Any customer over the age of 21 cannot buy more than one ounce of recreational marijuana flower per day. Recreational customers are also only allowed to purchase 16 oz of cannabis edibles, 72 fl oz of cannabis tinctures, or 7 grams of cannabis concentrates per day.

As for medical marijuana patients, Washington allows customers to purchase up to 3 oz of marijuana flower, 48 oz of marijuana edibles, 1.69 gallons of marijuana liquid infusions, or 21 grams of concentrates.

Please keep in mind that Washington State doesn’t allow residents to cultivate recreational cannabis at home. Only medical marijuana patients could grow a max of six plants in their house.

Note: under WAC 314-55-079, Washington State forbids dispensaries from operating delivery services. This law also bars Washington dispensaries from selling marijuana online and letting customers use cannabis inside a state-approved dispensary.

What Fees & Taxes Will Washington State Dispensaries Pay? 

Anyone who’s applying for a cannabis producer, processor, or retailer license in Washington State must pay the WSLCB a non-refundable $266 application fee. If that state approves your application, you will have to pay a $1,062 renewal fee before receiving your cannabis license.

As for taxes, Washington State charges a 37 percent excise tax on all recreational marijuana goods. This excise tax is on top of the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax and additional local taxes. However, medical marijuana patients are exempt from both the excise and retail taxes.

How Big Is Washington State’s Cannabis Market?

There’s no doubt that Washington residents love their weed. Indeed, the demand for cannabis flowers, tinctures, and edibles has continued to exceed local lawmakers’ wildest dreams. 

Between 2013 and 2018, Washington dispensaries sold approximately $1 billion in recreational cannabis. Many industry experts believe these numbers could easily double as we move forward in the 2020s.

These numbers are well below what the WSLCB forecasted in cannabis tax revenue. For instance, according to the WSLCB’s statistics, the state would only get $120 million in taxes from cannabis in 2017. In reality, Washington brought in $315 million in excise taxes that year.

But it’s not just consumers that have shown tremendous interest in cannabis goods. The WSLCB frequently receives far more marijuana license applications than it can fulfill. Indeed, one of the drawbacks of opening a dispensary in Washington is that there’s so much competition.

Currently, there are over 100 approved cannabis dispensaries in Washington State. Well over half of these dispensaries are clustered around the densely-populated Seattle metropolitan area. 

Here are just a few of Washington State’s most influential dispensaries:

How To Open A Dispensary In Washington State

Find Out If The WSLCB Is Accepting Applications

Before you spend too much time planning your cannabis dispensary, please check whether the WSLCB is currently accepting applications. Since Washington State’s cannabis market is so saturated, the WSLCB often refuses to accept new applications. If you’re serious about opening a dispensary, you need to stay vigilant and apply as soon as you see an opportunity.

To find out whether the WSLCB is issuing new licenses for marijuana retailers. If Washington State isn’t accepting applications, then you could subscribe to the WSLCB’s GovDelivery site. As a subscriber, you should get a heads-up whenever the WSLCB is gearing up to open new applications.

Double-Check You’re In A Legal Area

According to Washington State’s statutes, dispensaries cannot be within 1,000-feet of the following areas:

  • Elementary and secondary schools.
  • Public playgrounds and parks.
  • Public transit stations.
  • Libraries.
  • Rec centers.
  • Childcare facilities.
  • Video game centers or arcades.

As a caveat, local municipalities could reduce the 1,000-foot buffer to 100-feet. However, the state requires all counties to respect the 1,000-foot rule for schools and public playgrounds. Be sure to check with your local legislature to verify zoning standards.

Submit Your Criminal Background Check

One of the essential steps to apply for a successful Washington State marijuana license is to submit a thorough criminal history record. This includes accurate fingerprint cards and any previous arrest information.

Currently, the state’s WSLCB assigns different points to different conviction types. Generally, if you score over eight points on the WSLCB’s scale, you won’t receive a marijuana license.

Here are how the WSLCB’s current points system breaks down:

  • Felony conviction within the past ten years: 12 points
  • Gross misdemeanor conviction within the past three years: 5 points
  • Misdemeanor conviction within the past three years: 4 points
  • Under federal or state supervision for a felony: 8 points
  • Failure to disclose accurate criminal history: 4 points for each conviction

Finances, Floor Plans, And Photo IDs – Additional Paperwork For A Marijuana License

On top of your criminal background check, the WSCLB will ask for info on your proposed store’s layout and business goals. This could include a detailed floor plan, employee info, and a copy of your lease.

The WSLCB will also ask for a state-approved ID and proof of residency. Currently, Washington only accepts applications from adults who’ve lived in the state for at least six months.

Lastly, you will need to send the WSLCB financial info such as tax returns, bank statements, and funding info. Applicants will also have to sign affidavits before they can receive a marijuana license.

Shortly after the WSLCB gets your paperwork, you should receive a call from a state-approved marijuana license investigator. On this phone call, you may be asked to supply extra details on your dispensary project. The state will also send you additional forms via DocuSign for your completion.

If all goes well, the state will issue your marijuana license after you pay your first $1,062 renewal fee. For those who didn’t have a successful application, you could ask for an administrative hearing through the Administrative Procedure Act or re-submit your application to the WSLCB.

Need Help Managing Your Dispensary? Cure8 Could Help!

Opening a dispensary is as exhilarating as it is daunting. Whether you’re an industry vet or new to the wild world of legal weed, you’ll need a reliable IT infrastructure to keep your business compliant and profitable. That’s where Cure8 could help.

In recent years, Cure8 has helped many cannabis entrepreneurs expand their business while maintaining a sterling reputation with their home state. Whatever tech-related query you have, we bet our professional staff could help you achieve your goals.

If you’d like to learn more about Cure8’s services, please drop us a line at [email protected]. You could also call Cure8’s friendly staff at (855) 394-1420.

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