How to open a cannabis dispensary

How to Open a Cannabis Dispensary in Virginia

A complete guide for opening a cannabis dispensary in Virginia. Learn the key considerations of opening a dispensary such as usage and licensing.

Interested in opening a dispensary in Virginia? In Virginia, things have changed a lot in the cannabis industry lately. They've made their medical marijuana program bigger and even made recreational cannabis legal. So, if you start to learn how to set up a dispensary in Virginia before they start taking applications, you'll be in a good spot.

They're also planning to start allowing recreational selling later in 2024, which means there's a big chance for new business owners to get into the legal cannabis market. And if you're already running a medical marijuana business, this could be your chance to grow even more by transitioning from med to rec.

For context, the first medical cannabis shop there opened in August 2020. Virginia became the 17th state in the US, and the first in the South, to legalize adult cannabis use.

While the talk about allowing recreational marijuana sales continues, chances to apply for a dispensary license are expected soon.

On February 27, 2021, a bill (HB 2312/SB 1406) passed, allowing possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, legalizing cannabis sales, and establishing regulations for Virginia’s marijuana market.

The Potential Cannabis market in Virginia

Projected by Marijuana Business Daily, the recreational marijuana sector in Virginia could yield between $1.2 to $1.4 billion by 2025. With nearly 9 million residents, Virginia ranks as the 12th most populous state, offering a substantial market for potential cannabis entrepreneurs.

Additionally, as per the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the marijuana industry in Virginia has the potential to create more than 18,000 jobs and generate net tax revenue ranging from $177 to $300 million if the sales tax is set at 25%.

Timeline for Virginia Cannabis Dispensary Laws

  • In 2022, the General Assembly didn't pass laws for selling recreational marijuana.
  • In January 2023, two Republican legislators proposed bills for a legal cannabis market: HB 1464 and HB 1750.
  • As of February 7, 2023, no final action was taken on these bills.
  • On February 7, 2023, the Virginia Senate approved a bill allowing adult-use marijuana sales.
  • It got a 24-16 vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
  • By February 22, 2023, no further action was taken on this bill.
  • On January 26, 2024, Virginia’s Senate Committee advanced bill SB 448 for licensing adult-use marijuana businesses.
  • It passed with a 10-5 vote.
  • Licensing could start in July 2024, with retail licenses by 2025.
  • Local governments could vote to ban commercial cannabis activities.
  • On February 12, 2024, Virginia’s General Assembly made progress on SB 448 and HB 698.
  • SB 448 proposed starting legal sales by January 1, 2025, with licensing from July 2024.
  • HB 698 aimed to legalize retail sales, allowing existing medical operators, hemp businesses, and microbusinesses to start sales by January 1, 2025.
  • Both bills introduced a 9% tax and allowed local referendums.
  • By February 22, 2024, Virginia moved closer to legalizing retail sales by May 1, 2025, with SB 448.
  • It included a 9% tax, canopy size limits, and a micro-business program.
  • These efforts focus on regulation, safety, and equity for minority and small businesses.
  • They're moving toward cross-chamber evaluation for a unified framework.

In this article, we’re going to take you through how to open a cannabis dispensary in Virginia. We’ll explain the process and the rules and regulations, from what’s legal in the state, to the rules you’ll have to follow to safely and legally set up and open your business.

Is Medical Cannabis Legal in Virginia?

Simply put, yes, medicinal cannabis is indeed legal in the state of Virginia.

As is the case with other states in which medical cannabis is legal, in Virginia, there are a few rules and regulations to keep in mind when it comes to dispensing medical cannabis.

In 2017, Virginia passed a law permitting registered patients with intractable epilepsy to use CBD products or THC-A oil. The following year, the law expanded to include any medical condition such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Cancer, and Crohn’s Disease. Further improvements were made in 2019 and 2020. In 2021, the General Assembly passed legislation (HB 2218/SB 1333) to include whole-plant cannabis in the program and protect patients from workplace termination or discipline for medical cannabis use outside of work (HB 1862). Consequently, Virginia became the 34th state to enact a comprehensive medical cannabis law.

According to HB 933/SB 671, since July 1, 2022, patients no longer needed to register with the Board of Pharmacy. With a written certification from a licensed practitioner, patients can access Virginia dispensaries. However, registered agents, individuals allowed to purchase medical marijuana products on behalf of patients, still need to register with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy.

Rules for Dispensing Medical Cannabis in Virginia

There are several rules around medical cannabis in the state of Virginia.

Firstly, medical cannabis dispensaries are only allowed to sell patients up to 4 ounces for 30 days. In addition, patients are only able to have up to a 90-day supply of medical cannabis.

Secondly, as defined under the law, medical cannabis in Virginia can only contain up to 10mg of THC, for each dose.

Also, to be able to get access to medical marijuana, patients must have a proper written certificate from a licensed Doctor and a government-issued ID. They must be over the age of 18.

When it comes to licensing and regulations on your side, to open your medical cannabis dispensary in Virginia, you’ll need a Pharmaceutical Processor Permit.

What’s the Medical Cannabis Market like in Virginia?

When you’re looking into opening a medical cannabis dispensary in Virginia, it’s important to understand the market and your potential competition.

In Virginia, there are 21 medical cannabis dispensaries. This shows that there is potential to successfully open a dispensary, as there isn’t a massive amount of competition in the state.

If you’ve found a premises for your dispensary, it’s a good idea to research how many similar dispensaries there are in your area. That way, you can understand what the market is like, and what the supply is like - giving you a good idea of how well your new business will slot in.

How to Open your Medical Cannabis Dispensary in Virginia

Now that you understand the laws and regulations around dispensing medical cannabis in Virginia, and who you’re allowed to dispense your products to, it’s time to think about how to open your dispensary.

It’s a good idea to find a premises in a location where there isn’t a lot of competition. However, you also want to be in an area that’s relatively easy to get to, on foot, by car, and by public transport.

This way, you’ll be easily accessible for all patients, which is an important thing to consider as you’ll be dispensing medical marijuana to people who have health conditions.

So, get a good location, and then it’s time to get your Pharmaceutical Processor Permit. One this is all set up, you’ll be good to go with your new business.

The Virginia Board of Pharmacy uses a point system based on various criteria to grant medical licenses in the state. These criteria include:

  • Financial Position
  • Location within Health Service Area
  • Security Plan
  • Authorization to Conduct Business
  • Industry Involvement and Disciplinary Action
  • Agriculture, Production, and Dispensing Expertise
  • Marketing Plans
  • Facility Exterior and Blueprint
  • Product and Site Safety
  • Expected Hours of Operation

While these criteria have been used for the Virginia medical dispensary application process, you can expect similar requirements for the adult-use application process. For specific details, it's advisable to follow updates from the new Virginia Cannabis Control Authority.

Is Recreational Cannabis Legal in Virginia?

Recreational cannabis is legal in Virginia, but under certain conditions, and there are several laws around selling, buying, possession and use.

In July 2021, recreational cannabis was legalized in Virginia, for people aged 21 and over. People can only be in possession of up to one ounce of cannabis at a time, and the use of weed in public is also illegal.

However, currently, there are no dispensaries selling recreational weed in Virginia, because retail sales of cannabis have been put on a hold by the government.

Rules for Dispensing Recreational Cannabis in Virginia

Since the legalization of recreational cannabis in Virginia in 2021, there have been several different bills and murmurings in the government to allow dispensaries to open and sell weed to customers.

However, this is currently on a hiatus. While recreational dispensaries and retailers were scheduled to open in January 2024, this has not been looked at since a shift in government, and there hasn’t been much support for the retail sale of recreational cannabis since.

Keeping an Eye on Recreational Cannabis Laws in Virginia

If you’re still planning to open a recreational cannabis dispensary in Virginia, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on what’s going on with the laws and regulations around retailing and selling.

While now, things don’t seem to be moving forward, it’s difficult to know whether this will continue to be the case.

For this reason, staying proactive and keeping on top of the news and updates could help you make your move if retail sales are legalized one day.

However, as things don’t appear to be moving quickly now, it might be a good idea to focus on states where it could be a lot more viable to set up and run a recreational cannabis dispensary soon.

What are the expenses for launching a dispensary in Virginia?

Prospective applicants are required to pay a fee:

  • Application fee: A non-refundable $10,000, submitted with the initial application.
  • Initial permit fee: $60,000, submitted along with the application and necessary documentation.
  • For an initial permit application, all required documentation and any applicable re-inspection fees must be submitted to the Board before inspection.

Types of Licenses for Recreational Marijuana

There are four different types of licenses: dispensary, wholesaler, cultivator, and product manufacturer. Each category will have a set limit on the number of licenses available. For example, there can be a maximum of 400 dispensary licenses, 25 wholesaler licenses, 450 cultivator licenses (divided into Class A and Class B), and 60 product manufacturer licenses.

Obtaining a Cannabis Business License in Virginia

 Here's what we know about opening a dispensary in Virginia:

The Virginia Cannabis Control Authority will review new license applications considering factors such as the number of existing retail stores and potential negative effects on public health.

From July 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023, preference was given to "social equity applicants." These applicants needed to meet specific criteria, such as being at least 66% owners with a prior cannabis-related conviction, residing in areas with high cannabis-related arrests or economic challenges, or having graduated from a Virginia HBCU.

How We Can Help You Open your Medical Cannabis Dispensary in Virginia

If you’ve decided it’s time to open a cannabis dispensary in Virginia, at Seed Technology, we’re the leaders in dispensary TV menus and self-service kiosks.

When you’re setting up your dispensary, you want to be able to display your cannabis products and market them within the limitations of what is allowed by law.

Once you’ve established this, we can help you put your products out there, so that people walking around your dispensary can be educated and entertained while they’re waiting to be served.

It’s important to understand the experience of the people visiting your dispensary. You want them to visit you again, so it’s imperative that their journey in your premises is as smooth as possible.

There can be some paperwork and ID to look through when dispensing medical marijuana in Virginia, meaning wait times before being served in your dispensary may be longer.

However, with a screen to watch which educates them about your business and what you offer, you can keep the people visiting your dispensary entertained while they wait.

So, if you’re looking to educate and entertain the people visiting your medical cannabis dispensary in Virginia, get in touch with Seed Technology today.

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