June 24, 2021

First Time Dispensary Owners: Compliance Checklist

Now you must have decided to open your first dispensary, and there's no doubt you are happy because opening a dispensary isn't a small job, and obviously, it's a great thing to be happy about. This new opportunity also presents itself with a set of challenges that you might not even think about when launching the business. How can your dispensary then succeed amongst the thorns? To succeed, you need to make a solid compliance plan for you and your team, which should be followed to not go against all applicable state and local laws.

How can you make sure your business operations are complaints? This article will help you and your business navigate the cannabis law to ensure your full compliance with the state and local laws.

Compliance checklist of the first-time dispensary owner


  1. Prepare all conditions for obtaining the required licenses and dispensary activity permits.

Each state and local government has different criteria, but you need to have the necessary licenses and permits to own and operate a dispensary. The order in which the requirements for obtaining your licenses and permits are met can also differ from state to state. For example, once you've first been approved for a municipal license in California, you cannot obtain your state license.

  1. Keep to date all licenses and permits.

Step one is to get your licenses and permits in order, but you must also keep your licenses and permits in order. Ensure you remain on top of the renewal process once you're approved for the correct licenses and permits. For 12 months, most licenses and permits are valid, so keep a record of when you need to apply for renewals and do your homework.

  1. Ensure the accessibility of all licenses and permits.

You need to make sure they are easily accessible once you have all the appropriate licenses and permits in place. Your state or local authority has the right to perform a compliance audit at any time and request your company documents so that you have them on hand.


  1. Make sure all products are properly tested.

It will be your duty to send your product to a licensed laboratory to be tested for potency, homogeneity, and hazardous and toxic substances such as heavy metals, mold, and mildew if you intend on or are expected to grow your own flower or make your own goods. Requirements vary from state to state on what to assess. If you do not make your own flower or manufactured goods and buy from a third party supplier instead, remember to obtain all previous labeling test details for labeling purposes. Also, you will need to ensure that all necessary testing has been submitted to your state-mandated track-and-trace program as "passed."

  1. Make sure all products are clearly labeled.

Label specifications differ from state to state but must clearly show the sum of THC in the substance in all labeling. Until it is moved to a retail plant, packaging for imported goods such as cartridges, edibles, oils, and topical must have complete dosage and size information directly on the box. Additionally, retailers must show different details on printed labels at the time of sale, based on state and local regulations.

  1. Before leaving the shop, make sure all items are packed properly.

Pay attention to the local laws about packaging specifications. Some states, if the main packaging is not already childproof, require extra childproof exit bags.


  1. Have a standard guide to operating procedures.

For any business, processes and procedures are important, but they are essential in the cannabis industry. A better way to record your processes is to provide dispensary standard operating procedures (SOP) and ensure that each process (such as your opening and closing procedures or disposal and waste management) is up to regulatory standards.

  1. Thoroughly vet your new hires.

It would be best if you had a credible and reliable staff to operate a compliant dispensary. Make sure that during the recruiting process, you vet all new hires properly. Check references, confirm work records, and conduct any required criminal background checks that your state needs. Some states mandate that all workers who specifically treat cannabis be licensed or badged to work in a pharmacy.

  1. Have a compliance checklist for workers.

When you start, you might not have a board of directors, compliance agents, or a manager of human resources. Still, you need to ensure that every worker knows how to do their job according to all relevant laws and regulations.

  1. Be prepared for audits.

Dispensaries are subject to regulatory audits, just like every other corporation. Schedule daily internal audits if you want to remain one step ahead of the audit process (and escape hefty fees and fines for non-compliance). Keep clear records, establish an audit checklist that details your state's audit guidelines, and ensure that each aspect of your company complies with the regulations of your state (and that you have the documentation to prove it). That way, you'll be ready when you have to apply to a real regulatory audit and will pass with flying colors.


For dispensary operators, enforcement is one of the greatest obstacles. And while this checklist definitely addresses some of the most common questions, to keep your dispensary in compliance, you need more than a checklist. Serviceganja provides more tips for first-time dispensary owners.

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