How to Open a Dispensary in Florida

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How to Open a Dispensary in Florida in 2024

Although recreational marijuana remains illegal in Florida, the state’s medical cannabis sector still pushes its cannabis industry to a top 3 ranking in the United States, with more than 800,000 active patients and sales crossing the $1 billion mark. To set up a dispensary in the state, you must obtain a medical marijuana treatment center license from the Office of Medical Marijuana Use. However, the application window for an MMTC license is currently closed.

Why Open a Dispensary in Florida?

Even as recreational cannabis remains illegal in Florida, the state's medical cannabis industry remains one of the largest in the United States. In 2021, Forbes ranked the over $1 billion cannabis market in Florida only behind California and Colorado in annual sales, two states with recreational cannabis markets.

In July 2017, only 63,054 patients were registered in the Medical Marijuana Use Registry (MMUR). As of September 2023, there were 810,685 qualified patients with active MMUR ID cards under the state's medical marijuana program, showing a rapid growth in participation in the cannabis sector. Considering the size of the Florida cannabis market, opening a dispensary in the state is undoubtedly a lucrative investment.

Types of Dispensary Licenses in Florida

With recreational marijuana illegal in Florida, the only dispensary license available in the state is a medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC) license. This license is issued by the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU).

How to Get a Florida Dispensary License

You can only apply for a Florida MMTC license when the application window is open. Currently, OMMU is not accepting applications. However, per the previous application window, applicants were required to complete a 2-part application form. The first part of the application required applicants to provide basic information about themselves and the applications. The second part required applicants to provide the OMMU with detailed items to demonstrate the ability to operate as an MMTC. However, applicants were required to fulfill the following conditions before they could apply:

  • You must be registered with the state to do business there for 5 years
  • You must possess a valid nursery certificate of registration from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Your facility must be in a location that is considered easily accessible to qualified medical marijuana patients
  • You need the financial ability to stay open for the 2-year approval cycle. You will be required to provide financial statements to the department during this period
  • All owners, officers, board members, and managers of the business must pass a level 2 background screening
  • You must hire the services of a medical director to supervise your dispensary

It is recommended that you check the OMMU website for updates on when a new application window will open.

Information and Documents Required for a Dispensary License in Florida

At the previous MMTC license application window, the following were required of applicants:

  • Certified documentation from the Florida Department of State or Florida Department of Revenue demonstrating that the applicant has been registered to do business in the state of Florida for the previous 5 consecutive years
  • A certified copy of a valid certificate of registration used by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • A list of all owners, managers, officers, and board members indicating the date of each individual’s most recent level-2 background screening
  • An organizational chart highlighting the supervisory structure of the applicant, including all owners, officers, board members, managers, and employees
  • A list of proposed and current staffing, including positions, duties, and responsibilities
  • Audited, certified financials of the applicant issued within the 12 months immediately preceding the application
  • Detailed financial business structure
  • A list including the locations of all properties the applicant plans to utilize to cultivate, process, and dispense medical marijuana or derivative products
  • Medical director's name, phone number, license number, email address, and mailing address

What Plans Do You Need to Open a Dispensary in Florida?

In the previous application window, MMTC license applicants were required to submit a number of plans to support their application. These included:

  • Business Plan
  • Marijuana Processing and Manufacturing Plan
  • Cultivation Plan
  • Environmental Plan
  • Financial Plan
  • Employee Manual
  • Fire Safety Plan
  • Recordkeeping Plan
  • Patient Education Plan
  • Inventory Control Plan
  • Product Safety Plan
  • Staffing Plan
  • Security Plan
  • Suitability of Proposed Plan
  • Transportation Plan
  • Diversity Plan

For more information on the content of these plans, see the previous MMTC license application instructions and requirements. Note that the OMMU will publish on its website if these plans will still be required when a new application window opens.

Are There Municipal Requirements for Opening a Cannabis Dispensary in Florida?

Florida municipalities are allowed to restrict medical marijuana treatment center establishments within their jurisdictions. Hence, MMTC license applicants must obtain local authorization by fulfilling the specific requirements in place in the area where they plan to set up. Once a new license application window opens in the state, MMTC license applicants must speak with local authorities about the mandatory steps to take to obtain local authorization.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Florida Dispensary License?

The OMMU will publish the application and licensing timelines on its website once a new application window opens.

Where Can You Locate a Cannabis Dispensary in Florida?

The specific areas where you can open a dispensary in Florida vary depending on the county or municipality zoning regulations. However, in most cases, MMTCs are permitted in commercial or industrial zoning districts. Also, there may be additional restrictions, such as distance requirements from schools, churches, and other sensitive areas. Typically, a dispensary must be at least 500 feet away from a school.

It is important to contact the zoning department in the county or municipality where you plan to open an MMTC to get specific information about the zoning requirements in the area.

Can Licensees Have More Than One Dispensary Location in Florida?

Yes. Florida allows MMTCs to have multiple locations in the state.

How Much Does It Cost to Open a Marijuana Dispensary in Florida?

To open an MMTC in Florida, you must pay a license application fee of $146,000 and a licensing fee of $1,223,124.42. However, other start-up and operation costs vary depending on the size of the dispensary operations. These include the following:

  • Start-up costs: $100,000 - $2,000,000 (includes business incorporation, real estate, equipment, legal, inventory, and marketing costs)
  • Operating costs: $50,000 - $200,000 (includes inventory, staffing, POS, security, and marketing costs)

Do You Need an Insurance Policy for a Cannabis Dispensary in Florida?

An MMTC is required to hold a surety bond of $5,000,000. This bond must be posted by the dispensary within 10 days of having its license approved by the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use. Per Section 381.986 of Florida Statutes, an MMTC may maintain a $2,000,000 surety bond upon serving 1,000 medical marijuana patients.

The surety bond, also called a performance bond, ensures that the dispensary abides by all state-stipulated regulations and rules regarding the operation of an MMTC. The bond provides compensation for the state should the MMTC fail to abide by the terms of the bond.

Note that per state law, workers' compensation insurance is mandatory for all businesses in the state. Workers compensation insurance covers medical bills, disability benefits, and recovery costs if an employee of the MMTC is injured at work.

Note that when a new application window for MMTC licenses opens in the state, there may be other insurance policies required.

How to Get a Grant to Open a Dispensary in Florida

Securing a grant or loan for starting a dispensary in Florida can be challenging. Considering the illegal status of cannabis federally, conventional banks and lenders are hesitant to extend financial support to such businesses. However, there are alternatives available to persons seeking to establish an MMTC. These include:

  • Self-funding: Self-funding requires using your own savings or investment to fund the dispensary business
  • Family and friends: This involves raising funds for your start via loans from your friends or family
  • Equity funding: This involves selling some stakes in your business to interested investors in exchange for money. While such investors have a controlling interest in your dispensary, you can use the funds gathered to start the business
  • Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding represents a method of sourcing funds from a broad community of individuals. By launching a campaign on a crowdfunding platform, the public can make financial contributions to support your business
  • Cannabis-specific brokers and lenders: There are a number of private lending companies that specialize in lending to cannabis businesses. Such companies understand the cannabis industry and the unique challenges that dispensaries face and have specifically tailored financial solutions for dispensaries

Does Florida Have a Social Equity Program for Cannabis Dispensaries?

No, Florida does not currently have a social equity program for dispensaries in the state. However, Florida has some provisions that are aimed at providing for some type of equity in the cannabis industry:

  • Reserve one of the 10 licenses, initially intended for availability in 2017, for a black farmer who was a class member in the Pigford v. Glickman case (185 FRD 82, DDC 1999). (The Pigford settlement addressed racial discrimination in farm lending in the 1980s and 1990s.).

This potential license holder would be granted an exemption from the requirement of being registered to conduct business in the state for 5 consecutive years before submitting a licensing application. However, the cost related to this particular license is twice that of a general applicant.

  • Mandating that applicants formulate robust diversity plans. This plan typically shows how a dispensary intends to promote and ensure the involvement of minority persons and minority entity enterprises, or veteran business enterprises, in ownership, employment, and management

Does Florida Tax Marijuana Dispensaries?

Florida does not have a cannabis-specific tax on marijuana sales.

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