Marijuana Business: Licenses, Permits, and Planning

Many states have passed legislation for the legalization of medical marijuana. Some states have even legalized the recreational use of marijuana. But the cultivation and sale of marijuana is still considered a federal crime. Any efforts you make to follow state cannabis laws will not protect you from federal prosecution. But you can avoid most legal problems by following state laws and local rules.


The type of licensing your cannabis business requires depends on many factors. These factors include the location of your operation and the cannabis products you are selling.

It is also important to have a plan before starting your business. Business owners and entrepreneurs should create a cannabis business plan. Cannabis cultivators should create a real estate plan. See FindLaw's Marijuana and Other Highly Regulated Businesses section to learn more.

State cannabis regulations can vary. This table shows the many legal approaches to marijuana businesses. It also provides resources for state cannabis business license applications. It does not include those states where both medical and recreational marijuana is illegal.


Alaska's laws permit the use of both medical and recreational marijuana. You may apply for a Marijuana Establishment License online.


The Arizona Department of Health Services runs the medical marijuana program. It also regulates the licensure of adult-use cannabis businesses.


The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission runs the state's medical marijuana program. The Commission has applications available for medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation facility licenses.


The sale of medical and recreational cannabis is legal in California. There are three state licensing authorities. These include the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch, and CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing.


Licenses for both medical and recreational marijuana are available. The Colorado Department of Revenue regulates marijuana business licenses. An applicant must confirm that their municipality allows cannabis industry businesses to operate within its jurisdiction.


The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection handles the state's Medical Marijuana Program. It also handles the Adult-Use Licensing Program for recreational marijuana use.


The Medical Marijuana Program in Delaware is part of the Public Health Division. Delaware has a limited number of medical marijuana distribution centers. Delaware's Department of Health and Social Services handles recreational marijuana regulations. The state expects that recreational marijuana business licenses will be available in 2024.


The Office of Medical Marijuana Use handles the implementation of medical cannabis laws. It also licenses businesses to dispense, process, and cultivate medical marijuana.


The Hawaii Department of Health is in charge of its Medical Cannabis Program. It handles licensing for both medical marijuana patients and dispensaries.


Illinois' Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issues medical marijuana licenses. It also issues licenses for adult-use cannabis businesses. The Illinois Department of Agriculture regulates marijuana cultivation centers.


The Louisiana Department of Health licenses a limited number of medical marijuana pharmacies in the state.


The Office of Cannabis Policy issues licenses for recreational and medical marijuana businesses.


The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission regulates medical marijuana use. On May 3, 2023, Maryland signed The Cannabis Reform Act into law. The Act legalized adult-use marijuana in the state. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is now the new Maryland Cannabis Administration. The Administration handles both medical and recreational marijuana licensing.


The Cannabis Control Commission handles licensing for medical marijuana and recreational marijuana businesses. The Commission provides a detailed guide to Massachusetts' application process.


The Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA) licenses medical marijuana and adult-use marijuana businesses. The CRA is also responsible for administering Michigan's Social Equity Program.


On August 1, 2023, Minnesotans will be able to buy and possess recreational marijuana. The Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management regulates both medical and recreational cannabis licenses.


Mississippi allows for medical marijuana licenses through the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program


Montana's Cannabis Control Division enforces the Montana Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. It also administers cannabis business licenses. Applications for cannabis processors, testing laboratories, distributors, and cannabis dispensary licenses are periodically available.


Nevada's Cannabis Compliance Board regulates retail marijuana businesses. It also regulates the state's medical marijuana program.

New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services runs the Therapeutic Cannabis Program. A bill to legalize recreational marijuana was just passed by the state's House of Representatives.

New Jersey

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission regulates the state's Medicinal Cannabis Program. It also handles state licenses for adult-use cannabis businesses.

New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Health oversees the Medical Cannabis Program. New Mexico's Cannabis Control Commission regulates and licenses recreational cannabis businesses.

New York

New York's Office of Cannabis Management regulates medical marijuana and recreational marijuana businesses.

North Dakota

The Division of Medical Marijuana runs the state's Medical Marijuana Program. North Dakota has compassion centers, which are dispensaries or marijuana grower/manufacturer facilities.


Three state agencies are responsible for implementing Ohio's Medical Marijuana Control Program. These agencies include the Department of Commerce, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, and the State of Ohio Medical Board.


Licenses are available for both medical and recreational marijuana businesses. The state requires separate licenses and registration for growers and dispensary operators. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission License (OLCC) accepts applications for recreational marijuana licenses.

Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Office of Cannabis Regulation oversees and licenses dispensaries and cultivators.


The Cannabis Control Board handles Vermont's adult-use and medical-use cannabis licenses.


Only marijuana cultivators can request a business license with Virginia at this time. Medical marijuana purchases come from pharmacies.


The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board handles medical and recreational marijuana licensing.

Washington D.C.

While it's legal to use marijuana recreationally, recreational sales remain illegal. However, the D.C. Department of Health runs the Medical Marijuana Program. This program provides licensing services for medical marijuana businesses and patients.

Many states and localities restrict the number of dispensaries and cultivators allowed in one state. License holders will also face annual application fees and strict zoning regulations.

Starting a Marijuana Business? Get Legal Help Today

Check your state's licensing requirements and license fees before starting your marijuana business. The cannabis industry is heavily regulated, but you can still run afoul of federal laws. Consider meeting with an experienced cannabis law attorney. An attorney can advise you of your local government's laws in your jurisdiction.

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DIY Forms for Cannabis Business

Restrictive federal laws and ever-changing state laws make the marijuana industry a dynamic environment for cannabis business owners. Before you open a cannabis business, make sure it is legal in your state, and follow your state laws. Once you decide on an LLC, S-corp, or C-corp business, you can register your business entity online using DIY business formation forms.

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