Voters may have legalized recreational cannabis in Michigan at the end of 2018, but Detroit has been in no rush to join in the fray. Though the state officially launched its legal cannabis regime in late 2019, its largest city won’t begin rolling out a framework of its own until early 2021 with the Detroit Legacy program. Here’s what the program looks like.Continue reading
Bermuda Prepares for Legalized Cannabis
Crystal blue waters and pink sands may be the key to Bermuda’s charm, but thanks to a new proposal from the island’s government, Bermuda looks to be moving towards legalizing cannabis. On June 3, 2020, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Kathy Lynn Simmons announced the Bermudian government’s intention to fully legalize and regulate cannabis for adult use by the end of the year.
Simmons has released a draft of the Cannabis (Licensing and Regulation) Act 2020 for public comment. For anyone paying attention, this comes as no surprise. Change has come incrementally to Bermuda, first with a decriminalization bill in 2017, and then with a move to legalize hemp in 2019.
With full adult-use legalization on the horizon, a new world of opportunity is emerging in Bermuda. Here’s what you need to know.
Bermuda & Cannabis: How We Got Here
Though Bermuda’s government has taken swift and decisive steps to legalize cannabis in 2020, regulation is hardly a new topic of discussion. In 2018, the possibility of expanding patient access to cannabis-based treatment was being explored. However, when the proposal was brought forward for public consultation, it was met with unexpected criticism — and not in the way one would assume. The overwhelming consensus was that the government’s aspirations, impressively proactive though they were, didn’t go far enough.
Full legalization was demanded. Bermudians wanted a simplified framework that would allow all citizens to participate, no matter their economic standing. They also wanted help to bring a semblance of social equity, which was especially important because of the stark economic disparities that have long been a part of island life.
Bermuda’s population is basically made up of rich and poor with no prevalent middle class to speak of. As an island nation, Bermuda relies on imports for many everyday staples, which pushes up the cost of living and further widens the divide between the haves and the have-nots.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these circumstances. With international travel ground nearly to a halt, Bermuda’s tourism-based economy has taken a catastrophic hit, leaving an overwhelming number of Bermudians with no way to make ends meet.
It’s no coincidence that the Bermudian government has now decided to accelerate the cannabis legalization process. In fact, the pandemic’s economic impact has been directly cited in documents for public consultation on the topic. As of July 3, 2020, the window for submission of public comments officially closed, setting the stage for the bill’s final adjustments ahead of becoming law.
Setting Up the System
Public documents released thus far have cited the regulatory frameworks of Canada and neighboring Caribbean nations as Bermuda’s inspiration. However, U.S. industry operatives will also find similarities to the framework of Colorado.
Regulations will be overseen by a five-member board — the Cannabis Advisory Authority — selected from the “disciplines of health, scientific research, business, planning, and agriculture.” The Authority will be responsible for advising on policy matters, the distribution of educational materials, the execution of training programs, and the receipt and submission of licensing applications. The Authority will also give recommendations on approvals and refusals. Let’s take a quick look at the broad strokes of the proposal:
- Adults age 21 years and older will be permitted to carry up to seven grams on their person.
- Personal cultivation will be allowed but will require an annual license of $750.
- Individuals with prior cannabis convictions will NOT be automatically barred from participating in the new industry.
- Retail cannabis outlets will be required to submit to an inspection by the Commissioner of Police a minimum of once every six months.
- Retail cannabis outlets will be permitted to allow consumption on their premises with the proper licensing.
- Licensing will be required for every level of the vertical, including cultivation, importing, exporting, manufacturing, retail, transportation, and research.
The Bermudian government is implementing rigorous protocols to ensure that the system can’t be scammed. Still, excessive regulations are being adamantly avoided so as not to unduly burden aspiring participants.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of legalization among Bermudians, not everyone is happy with all of the details of the proposal. According to an article in the Royal Gazette, Social Justice Bermuda — an activist organization — has taken issue with the $750 licensing fee for home cultivation. The group argues it will disproportionately exclude Black citizens from taking part in the legal growing scheme. Moreover, Social Justice Bermuda argues that such an exclusion would only further encourage illegal activity.
While there has been no direct response to this objection as of yet, the statements that have been released do bode considerably well for Social Justice Bermuda’s agenda. In her update on the public consultation, Attorney General Simmons stated emphatically that all comments submitted by the public were being considered. The update also noted that license fees were being re-evaluated in hopes of finding a balance between the costs of all available licenses and “to achieve the best participation for under-represented or marginalized groups.”
The Island Way
Throughout all of this—the language of the bill, the process by which they created it, and the consultations by which they refined it, one thing is abundantly clear: This piece of legislation is for the people.
There’s no buying or selling of licenses allowed, meaning it won’t become a game of Monopoly for the rich. Bermudian citizenship is also required for participation. Most importantly, the Bermudian government has made it clear that their goal is to tip the scales in favor of the underclass. They’ve doubled down on that assertion through a rare attentiveness to the populace and a dynamic response to their concerns.
Still, even the most reasonable of regulations can prove to be an arduous regimen for the average entrepreneur to tackle. Having a green thumb or a silver tongue doesn’t typically correlate with a propensity for bureaucratic details. Those are the Devil’s domain, according to the old cliché.
As the Bermudian government takes the final few steps to make the dream of legalization a reality, an entirely new territory of opportunity will be opening. If you’re a Bermudian approaching this new opportunity with a plan and a passion, make sure you’re equipped to stake your claim.
If you’re not sure where to start, we here at Higher Yields Consulting can help. Since 2008, we’ve been putting our diverse skillset to work for the cannabis industry — both in the U.S. and abroad — and have consistently garnered stunning results for our clients.
Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation.
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As the saying goes, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. However, when it comes to the future of cannabis in the U.S., an experienced prognosticator can help predict the next state likely to launch a legal cannabis market or provide insight to help you win an industry license. However, passing a law is just part of the story. We’re here to help you find the facts and identify opportunities.Continue reading
When selecting a property for your cannabis business, you want to be certain your investment aligns with your goals. At the outset, it’s important to think about how to maximize your cannabis yield in terms of production and financial return regardless of the vertical in which you choose to operate. Whether you’re thinking of buying, leasing, or doing a custom build, we have some tips on what to look for in a piece of commercial real estate — and some pitfalls to avoid.Continue reading
In cities and states where cannabis is legal in some form, governments are introducing social equity programs to address the lack of diversity in the cannabis industry. Local and state lawmakers are weaving social equity programs into legislation, thereby enabling minorities and those impacted by the war on drugs to pursue cannabis business opportunities. For decades, advocates for cannabis social equity and justice have pushed to create equal access and fairness in the cannabis industry. As with most social change, results take time. Below are some of the measures states have taken to grow cannabis social equity programs, and a few ways in which they still fall short.Continue reading
How to Get Started in a Legal Cannabis Business
More than half the states in the U.S. have already legalized marijuana in some form. Most of these states have started by legalizing medical marijuana for patients with qualifying conditions, while some states also have programs for recreational cannabis.
The cannabis industry is expected to grow into a $21 billion market by 2021. With business booming and the potential for high return on investment, there’s much interest in starting a legal cannabis business. However, because of the complex cannabis laws and regulations that vary by state, it’s easy to get lost and confused by all the requirements it takes to participate in this multi-billion industry.
Before you start your marijuana business and even consider beginning the application process, you should study your state’s specific marijuana programs, laws, and regulations. Because the legal cannabis industry is relatively young and highly regulated, starting a marijuana business won’t be like launching a regular business.
In this guide, we will briefly discuss the cannabis industry’s history, the unique requirements of becoming a cannabis entrepreneur, and marijuana business ideas. We will also talk about how you can improve your chances of getting a license.
Brief History of the Cannabis Industry in the U.S
Cannabis prohibition dates back to 1937 when the Marihuana Tax Act was passed. The Act levied a tax on anyone who dealt in marijuana, cannabis, or hemp. Just a year later, hemp was declared as the “New Billion Dollar Crop” because of its 25,000+ potential uses. And by 1942, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Army urged farmers to grow hemp. And though the Marihuana Tax Act was rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1969, cannabis was classified under Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act.
It would be decades before the journey toward legalization of marijuana would begin. In 1996, California passed Proposition 215, legalizing the medical use of marijuana in the state. Arizona, Alaska, District of Columbia, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Colorado, Hawaii, and Nevada legalized medical marijuana and developed their own medical marijuana programs over the next four years.
More states would follow suit over the next few decades, with some states legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. In 2018, the passing of the Farm Bill or the Agriculture Improvement Act into law legalized hemp and ended federal prohibition of hemp and hemp-derived products. .
Business Opportunities in the Cannabis Industry
The booming cannabis marketplace means a variety of business opportunities for entrepreneurs looking for their slice of the multi-billion-dollar pie. Because of the many types of cannabis businesses, getting started requires a decision on which area of the sector to focus on. While cannabis businesses now come in all shapes and sizes, the following are the most common marijuana businesses:
Dispensary – Marijuana dispensaries are also referred to as retail stores. They are the physical stores where consumers can buy cannabis products. This type of cannabis business is ideal for the entrepreneur who enjoys contact with the customers. Depending on your state, this could be a recreational or medical marijuana dispensary.
Cultivation Facility – Marijuana cultivation businesses are also known as grow facilities. Depending on the state regulations, marijuana may be grown indoors or outdoors. Cannabis cultivators are typically located in remote areas because of the space requirement. To maintain quality, cultivation businesses have facilities that are climate-controlled, well-ventilated, and have advanced irrigation systems. They are also expected to be highly secured.
Extraction Lab – Extraction labs have advanced extraction systems and extraction technicians that use processes to extract pure compounds from the cannabis plant. These potent extracts are what you will find in commercial products, such as oils, tinctures, and concentrates.
Manufacturer – Marijuana products can be consumed in a multitude of ways. Manufacturers process the cannabis plant to produce a variety of products, such as edibles and concentrates.
Transportation Services – Marijuana transporters get marijuana from point A to point B, safely and legally. Because marijuana is highly regulated, traditional courier services are out of the question. Only licensed marijuana transportation services are allowed to move raw marijuana materials and goods. This type of business will typically require armored vehicles and trained and armed drivers to ensure goods are delivered without incident.
Investing in Cannabis
Starting your own cannabis business operation isn’t the only way to get your start in the marijuana industry. Many people decide that investing in cannabis stocks is a good way for them to understand the industry before fully committing to business ownership. This approach will require market research into the performance of existing cannabis operations and an understanding of industry trends. Educate yourself and stay up-to-date on the latest cannabis business news and the ever-changing rules and regulations of the cannabis industry.
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting Licensed
The highly regulated nature of the cannabis industry makes getting a license for your business to operate legally challenging. And since most license applications are evaluated using a scoring methodology to rank them based on quality, competition is fierce. However, the application process for licensing is complex and rigorous for a reason; it’s to weed out those who do not have a potentially successful business strategy and the ability to operate a legal cannabis business properly.
Completing a marijuana license application is not a one-man job. It requires the expertise and insight of various cannabis professionals – ranging from operations to tax accounting and compliance with cannabis regulations. Some basic requirements the application process include are a well-developed business plan, detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs), and proof of strong financials. Before you begin the application process, you will also need to secure cannabis-friendly real estate that complies with all the zoning laws of your state. You will also need to craft a blueprint of your cannabis business facility, ensuring that it abides by all the compliance laws of your state.
Because of all the requirements, documents, and specialized skills needed to complete a license application, it would be wise to leverage the expertise of a cannabis consulting agency. Cannabis consultancies have teams of experts who specialize in each area of the cannabis industry – from licensing to accounting to compliance to facility design to branding. With years of experience in marijuana licensing and permitting, professional application writers will help you complete each section of the application properly by using an efficient process that saves you time and money.
Realistically, you may only have one shot to secure a cannabis license. Most states have a limited number of marijuana business licenses to award. Once an application window closes, another one won’t likely open unless the state determines that the existing marijuana businesses cannot meet consumer demand. Because cannabis licensing is highly competitive, an experienced cannabis business consulting company will ensure you are equipped with everything you need to make your application stand out.
Before you build your business, you need to understand the complexities of obtaining business licenses in the marijuana industry. Because the industry is highly competitive, and marijuana remains illegal under federal law, your best chance at becoming successful is to leverage the expertise of cannabis professionals who can increase your chances of getting licensed while ensuring you remain compliant with the law.
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As people began discovering gold at the end of the cannabis rainbow, some communities were missing out on the bonanza. Notably, people of color, those with prior marijuana convictions, and members of communities hardest-hit by the war on drugs were running into barriers to entry into the profitable cannabis industry. To maximize your potential for success in the cannabis market, learn about social equity programs in your state or city. Here are some common themes to be aware of, along with figures that illustrate the power of including previously underrepresented individuals in this booming industry.Continue reading
Why Work with Cannabis Consultants to Help Get Your License?
Because marijuana legalization is on the rise, with more than half the states in the United States legalizing cannabis in some form, it would appear that starting a marijuana business is easier than ever. However, because the cannabis industry is predicted to become a multi-billion industry that promises many business opportunities, competition has become increasingly fierce. Also, not all state marijuana programs are created equal; each will have its own regulatory compliance requirements, regulations for cannabis retailers and cannabis manufacturers, and application processes.
Cannabis laws and regulations vary from state to state. Some states have a limited number of licenses to award. Because the state cannabis program regulators and license evaluators expect to get hundreds, if not thousands, of applications when they open application windows, they will use a scoring methodology to rank applicants. Therefore, licenses will be awarded to applicants based on merit. In this guide, we will discuss the benefits of working with cannabis consulting firms and how they can help you get a cannabis license.
Complete All the Application Requirements on Time
Because cannabis applications are massive documents, it typically takes 4-6 weeks to complete the application, on average. While the exact requirements for cannabis licensing and permitting will vary from state to state, most applications will require a business plan, standard operating procedures (SOPs), strong financials, cannabis-friendly real estate, and background checks.
All these requirements take time and money to complete. The business plan alone needs to be a well-crafted document that demonstrates your ability to operate a cannabis business that is profitable and achieve cannabis compliance. Your business’s SOPs will need to be a detailed documentation of your facility’s processes and procedures.
Demonstrating that you have adequate funding to become a fully licensed cannabis business will require gathering all the documentation that shows you have a legal source of funding. This also involves financial documents showing your purchases, such as real estate, design build payments, employee salaries, and all other costs involved in getting your facility operational.
You also need to secure cannabis-friendly real estate. Because this is one of the many requirements for getting your application completed and considered for licensing, a cannabis consulting company can help you with site selection so you can find property that adheres to safety and security standards and meets all the relevant regulations and zoning restrictions for your particular cannabis business type, specifically for your state.
When you allow a cannabis consultant to become an extension of your team, you will have marijuana professionals who will ensure you complete your requirements and meet your deadlines. Using tested processes, they will create a timeline that schedules every aspect of the application to ensure each section is completed in a timely manner.
Gain Competitive Edge and Stand Out
While you may have experience and skill in running a business, you may not have expertise in each aspect of the cannabis industry. These include cannabis laws and regulations, tax compliance, facility safety and security requirements, marijuana cultivation processes, extraction technology, and so on.
Experienced cannabis consulting companies are comprised of teams of experts that specialize in the various fields of the marijuana industry. This includes lawyers with in-depth knowledge of state and federal marijuana laws, policies, and cannabis regulations. The team will also likely have finance experts to ensure you can demonstrate tax and accounting compliance. Expert cannabis marketers know the restrictions involved in marijuana marketing. And skilled marijuana architects and engineers will ensure your cannabis facility design and construction complies with your state’s cannabis safety and operational regulations. Each of these cannabis experts will help ensure that each aspect of your application is completely professional to demonstrate competency.
With years of experience in completing marijuana licensing applications, an experienced cannabis consultancy firm knows what it takes to make your application stand out. Leveraging application templates and customizable formats, your application will benefit from a strong structure that has been effective at winning business licenses.
Leverage the Skills of Expert Industry Researchers and Writers
Cannabis consulting companies have professional application writers who are skilled at technical writing, researching, and proofreading. So not only do they have extensive knowledge in the cannabis industry, but they can also write your application in a concise and clear manner. They will tackle all the tough questions and demonstrate your business’s ability to become successful and profitable.
Whether your business is a grow facility, dispensary, cannabis testing lab, or vertically integrated company in the medical cannabis or recreational marijuana market, the right licensing consultant and professional application writers will ensure your narrative is clear, consistent, and compelling.
Cannabis applications are composed of dozens of worksheets with some applications reaching over a hundred pages. Each section will typically have a word limit, making it crucial that you write your answers in a manner that is concise and clear. It may surprise you that many marijuana applications have been dismissed due to a technicality, such as a missed or incomplete section. Professional technical writers are thorough and diligent about double-checking all their work to ensure your application is complete and competitive.
When you trust a qualified, cannabis application writer to help you complete the written portions of your application, you can be assured that the writing will not only be captivating but consistent, but free of punctuation and grammar errors. They will also ensure that the writing is free of biases that may raise red flags.
Applying for licenses in the highly competitive marijuana industry is time-consuming and complex. It’s almost impossible to complete entirely on your own, without help from marijuana professionals. If you attempt to do it on your own because you believe it is a way to save money, you will likely discover the hard way that you may not meet the deadlines or complete the sections. Becoming a cannabis business owner is costly due to application fees, license fees, cannabis real estate requirements, and equipment and technology. It would be a shame to invest so heavily in launching your business and prepare it for operations, only to lose what may be your only chance to secure a license.
Keep in mind that most, if not all, cannabis application fees are non-refundable. Should you not be awarded a license, not only will the $5,000-$10,000 application fee not be returned to you, but you will need to have a contingency plan for the property you have acquired. Therefore, it would be wise to choose the right cannabis licensing consultant to help you win a coveted license and make the most of your investment.
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How to Get a License to Grow Hemp
A provision in the 2018 Farm Bill that was recently passed into law removes hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, making it a federally legal substance. Industrial hemp is the cannabis sativa plant that has been used extensively throughout history due to the plant’s various uses. Because both hemp and marijuana originate from the genus Cannabis, hemp suffered from the same stigma that surrounds its psychoactive cousin, marijuana. However, hemp has very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that causes marijuana’s psychological effects, or what is often described as a “high.” To remain legal, the hemp product must have a THC content of no more than 0.03%.
Because hemp is touted as a cash crop with over 25,000 applications, it’s easy to see why entrepreneurs are attracted to the many business opportunities in the production of industrial hemp. Many entrepreneurs looking into becoming industrial hemp growers look forward to creating more jobs for their local communities and enjoying the expected high return on investment.
However, while hemp is now legal on a federal level, each state still has its own laws and regulations on hemp cultivation. In this guide, we will discuss the national hemp program and hemp licensing application instructions to become a licensed industrial hemp grower.
Learn About Your State’s Local Hemp Production Program
The Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was set up to oversee and regulate the national hemp growing program. In October 2019, the USDA officially announced the Domestic Hemp Production Program, which outlined the federal framework allowing state departments of agriculture to submit their plans to produce and regulate the crop.
Before you can grow hemp, you need to be licensed under your state hemp program. Despite hemp being federally legal, some states still have a ban on the commercial growing of hemp; currently, the list of states with no hemp program are Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and South Dakota. As of writing, forty-six states have an industrial hemp law permitting industrial hemp production.
Because not all states have a hemp production plan, your first step should be to determine if your local department of agriculture has a hemp program approved by the USDA or has submitted one for review. You can find the list of contacts of growers by state at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA).
NASDA supports the production, processing, and commercialization of hemp and acts as an advisor for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the regulatory framework for CBD products. Now that hemp is legal on a federal level, so are hemp-derived products, which include CBD products derived from hemp.
Applying for Your State’s Hemp Program
If your state’s hemp production program has been approved by the USDA or is in the process of developing and submitting a plan, you can apply for a license under its industrial hemp program. However, if your state does not have an approved or pending hemp production plan, you could still apply for a USDA hemp production plan. Unfortunately, the application window for licensing closed on November 30, 2019.
There are two ways to apply for a license – electronically through the USDA Domestic Hemp Production Program website or by traditional mail. For states that have approved or pending hemp production plans, the USDA accepts license applications year-round; licenses are valid for one calendar year.
One of the main requirements to apply for licensing to grow hemp is an FBI criminal history report. Hemp production licenses are not granted to applicants who have been convicted of a felony related to a controlled substance in the last decade.
The FBI can provide you with an Identity History Summary, more commonly known as a “rap sheet,” for a fee. If you’ve never been arrested, the FBI will give you a document that proves you do not have an arrest history. The summary lists all arrest information, if any – including the date, the charge, and disposition of the arrest.
There are three ways to submit a request for Identity History Summary – electronically via the FBI website, by traditional mail, or via an FBI-approved channeler. Currently, the cost to request an Identity History Summary is $18, regardless of which option you choose. Processing time for requests for an Identity History Summary is 3-5 days when request is submitted electronically, and 2-4 weeks when the request is submitted via mail. Whichever channel you choose to request an FBI criminal report, you must submit your fingerprints and any relevant data.
The other requirements to apply for licensing to grow or process hemp for industrial and commercial purposes may vary from state to state. However, most grower license and registration applications are the same. You will need to provide the following information on the application form:
Business and contact information – Basic information including the legal names of the applicants, business entity, name of business, business location, and contact numbers and emails.
Hemp field or Greenhouse locations – Location name, county, and the town or municipality of your hemp field or greenhouse location. You may also need to provide its exact location in terms of latitude and longitude. This section also includes the size of the hemp field or greenhouse, likely described in acres.
Applied Research – Applied research refers to industrial hemp research into harvesting techniques, cultivation equipment, nutrient inputs, storage, plant pest control, crop rotation, and so on.
You will also need to pay the applicable fees, which will likely include a grower license fee, an annual grower registration fee, processor registration fee, sampling/testing fee. You may also need to sign the research program agreement, an agreement between the department of agriculture and your state’s hemp pilot program.
ConclusionBecause hemp has been federally legalized, the application process is relatively straightforward. If your state does not have an approved or pending industrial hemp and marijuana program, you can still apply to become a licensed hemp grower via the USDA production plan. However, if your state has a ban on hemp cultivation, it will still be considered illegal for you to grow industrial hemp. Before making any plans, contact your local department of agriculture to better understand your options and business opportunities.
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The How-To Guide to Cannabis Licensing
The increasing number of states passing legislation for the legalization of marijuana and the removal of hemp from the Controlled Substances Act has led to heightened interest in participating in the cannabis industry.
As the cannabis marketplace evolves, stigma surrounding the plant fades, and consumer demand continues to rise. There has never been a better time to participate in what is predicted to be a multi-billion marketplace. However, because marijuana legalization varies from state to state, you will need to familiarize yourself with your state’s specific cannabis program and its rules and regulations. State laws establish who may cultivate or sell cannabis without prosecution under federal law.
Before you get started, you will need to determine the type of licensing, permitting, and documents your marijuana business requires. The different types of cannabis businesses will have their own set of requirements and application processes. In this guide, we will discuss the types of medical marijuana business licenses, how to apply for a cannabis license, and the benefits of working with cannabis consultants to get a license. We will also discuss the business opportunities in the industrial hemp space.
Types of Marijuana Business Licenses
There are various types of marijuana businesses and therefore, different license types. Before you begin the cannabis application process, you need to determine the type of cannabis business you are planning to launch. If your state has both a recreational and medical marijuana program, you have more opportunities to explore. Investing in the recreational cannabis space means access to a broader audience and not having to deal with the paperwork and regulations associated with medical cannabis.
However, if your state does not have a recreational or adult-use marijuana program, an investment in medical marijuana also comes with its benefits. As a medical marijuana business, you would be providing patients with qualifying conditions access to cannabis products that will improve their quality of life.
While you may want to start a cannabis business that deals in both medical and recreational marijuana, you may also have to refine your decision by choosing the specific type of business. Keep in mind that the terms for marijuana businesses are different from state to state. For example, a growing facility may be called a cultivation center in a different state, while a dispensary will be referred to as a retail store by another state. The following are the most common types of cannabis business licenses:
Dispensary – Consumers are most familiar with marijuana dispensaries because they are the brick and mortar establishments or retail stores where they can physically purchase marijuana products. A cannabis dispensary or retail marijuana business is ideal for the entrepreneur who enjoys facing the consumers. Keep in mind that most states have strict regulations for dispensaries, such as locations that must be more than 500-1000 feet from schools, churches, etc.
Cultivation – There are outdoor and indoor growing facilities, also known as cultivation centers. However, outdoor growing facilities are only established in states where the climate and state restrictions allow for outdoor marijuana production. Whether indoors or outdoors, growing facilities are usually required to be located away from schools, parks, libraries, or any other establishments that cater to minors.
Because most state laws typically require that cultivation operations or cannabis production facilities be in remote locations, you can enjoy benefits like security and potential for future expansions. Cannabis production facilities require a significant investment because space, infrastructure, equipment, and soil costs can add up. The growing facility will also need proper ventilation, climate control, irrigation control systems, and the right lighting.
Extraction – Currently, the majority of marijuana sales are concentrates and cannabis extracts. With this kind of demand, starting an extraction operation is a good way to enter the cannabis industry.
Using special extraction systems and skilled extraction technicians, extraction labs take the marijuana plant and apply industrial solvents, heat, and pressure to the plant to extract pure compounds. You will also need to decide which of the many extraction and refinement methods your extraction lab will focus on; this will determine your equipment, labor, laboratory, and licensing requirements.
Processing and Manufacturing – Processors and manufacturers are licensed to purchase marijuana to process it and manufacture it into marijuana products like oils, tinctures, ointments, edibles, and so on.
Distributor – Marijuana distributors are licensed to transport cannabis products from a marijuana establishment to another marijuana establishment. For example, a distributor may transport marijuana from a cultivation facility to a dispensary.
Vertically Integrated Cannabis Business – Vertical integration in the cannabis industry refers to a cannabis company that controls more than one stage of the cannabis supply chain. Achieving vertical integration means consolidating the cannabis production processes by not only growing and processing the product but also distributing it to other businesses or individual consumers.
The Industrial Hemp Program
Hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances Act, making it legal on a federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill or Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. Industrial hemp is used for over 25,000 industrial and commercial products, which makes it a cash crop with the potential to be a highly lucrative industry. However, hemp, like marijuana, is regulated by states, and farmers, researchers, and entrepreneurs will still need a license to operate.
How to Get a License to Grow Hemp
The Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set up the national hemp growing program. While you can apply for a federal license at the USDA, they won’t be available in the states that ban the commercial growing of hemp. As of the time this article was written, South Dakota, Mississippi, Idaho, and New Hampshire are states with these laws.
The USDA will be accepting license applications year-round, with licenses valid for one calendar year. The USDA has also established a rule that all hemp plants will be tested at a Drug Enforcement Administration-registered laboratory to ensure their THC levels remain within legal limits.
Basic Requirements for a Cannabis License Application
While marijuana legalization and industrial hemp laws vary from state to state, those that have cannabis programs typically have an application process that involves some common factors that application “judges” will require. The following are the more common requirements for cannabis business application:
Business Plan – Marijuana program regulators will need to determine your readiness to operate a legal cannabis business. Therefore, your business plan should be a document that demonstrates your ability to run a productive and profitable marijuana business that follows relevant regulations.
A cannabis business plan follows the outline of traditional business plans. They will have sections like the executive summary, industry overview, market analysis, competitive analysis, sales and marketing plan, ownership structure, operating plan, and financials.
For a cannabis business, your business plan should also include any information that supports your marijuana business idea, such as cannabis market studies and descriptions of your products. This is why it’s crucial to study state-specific cannabis regulations.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – The application reviewers and analysts will need to determine your ability to maintain a safe and secure facility. You’ll need to create clear and actionable SOPs that outline your processes, explain why they are performed, and who is expected to execute the processes. The goal is to prove that you can stay on top of the constantly shifting rules and regulations of the cannabis industry.
Your SOPs should also detail your procedures for health and safety issues, equipment and supplies, and emergencies. Each procedure should be mapped out in detail. Pay attention to any language or wording that may cause miscommunication, which may lead to accidents or legal action.
Financial Plan and Proof of Funding – The application process itself can be costly, with some states requiring thousands of dollars in application and license fees. Therefore, you need to demonstrate that you have strong financials to not only proceed with the application process but to also build and launch your intended cannabis business.
The costs of launching and operating a fully licensed marijuana business requires strong financials and a legal source of funding. Beyond the hefty application fee and renewal fee that range between $5,000 – $10,000, there are the real estate costs, ongoing costs to operate, and staffing. You also need to factor in business equipment, security and surveillance systems, marketing, and capital requirements.
Cannabis Real Estate – Know your local regulations before investing in real estate. Before applying for a license, you will need to have secured cannabis-friendly property that meets all the requirements of your type of cannabis business. For example, your dispensary should be in a location that complies with the state’s zoning restrictions, which likely involve operating at a specified distance from a school.
Keep in mind that not all properties are considered “cannabis friendly.” While your state may approve your location, there’s the reality that your landlord may not approve. If you intend to rent a space, be upfront with the building owner about the nature of your business. This will help avoid problems in the future. Higher Yields has an in-house cannabis real estate team that can help you find the perfect property.
Background Checks – You will need to provide proof that you don’t have any felony convictions. Whether you are applying as the owner, or you are an investor, licenses are typically not granted to those with a criminal past.
For example, applicants for the USDA Hemp program need to provide an FBI criminal history report. You cannot receive a hemp production license if you have been convicted of a controlled substance-related felony in the last 10 years.
Why Work with Cannabis Consultants to Help Get Your Cannabis Business License?
What makes the cannabis business license so rigorous and time-consuming is the dozens of pages and sections that you will need to fill out. However, completing all the sections of the application form isn’t the only challenge. Some states only have a limited number of licenses to award. The state licensing authority may use a scoring methodology that ranks applications and awards licenses to those that perform the highest. This means that meeting the minimum requirements is typically not enough for you to win a coveted license; you need to ensure your application stands out.
Cannabis consulting services provide you with everything you need to accomplish your cannabis application. Here’s what you can expect when you leverage the skills of an experienced team of cannabis application writers:
Meet Deadlines – Some marijuana license applications are massive documents composed of dozens or hundreds of sections. Completing and submitting an application is something that cannot possibly be done overnight. On average, you will need at least 4-6 weeks to complete the application.
Cannabis consultants help you avoid common mistakes that many make when tackling the complex cannabis license application process. Because cannabis licensing consultants have vast experience in winning marijuana business licenses, they know to never underestimate the time it takes to finish the application.
From the moment you ask for their help, they will create a timeline that plans out every aspect of the application. Meeting deadlines is one of the most impressive qualities of expert cannabis application writers. The ability to complete applications in a timely manner comes from years of experience and detailed knowledge of state cannabis laws and regulations.
Competitive Content Thanks to Specialized Skills – Cannabis business applications are massive compilations of documents that require the expertise of all aspects of a cannabis business, from the business plan and SOPs to facility design and financials. Therefore, the best way to approach cannabis licensing is to leverage the expertise of consultants who make it their mission to ensure you’re awarded a license.
Cannabis consulting companies have a team of marijuana experts that specialize in different fields of the cannabis industry, including tax accounting, compliance, real estate, facility design, and so on. Because they have in-depth knowledge of each state’s licensing system and approval process, they have the skill to complete each section of your application properly. This minimizes the risk of getting your application rejected over a technicality.
Expert Writing and Research Skills – Some applications have word limits for each section. This is where the services of an expert cannabis technical writer bring the most value. They will use clear, concise language that will demonstrate in-depth cannabis expertise and your business’s potential to have a positive economic impact.
Qualified technical writers are not only skilled writers but also thorough researchers and diligent proofreaders. As experienced cannabis application writers that are knowledgeable in your state’s marijuana business rules and regulations, they will be careful to write in a manner that meets the expectations of your city or state. And as meticulous proofreaders, they will double- and even triple-check each section for inconsistencies, grammar and punctuation errors, and to ensure nothing is missed.
Demonstrate Profitability and Compliance – The goal of any good cannabis application writer is to prove that you will be a productive and profitable marijuana business operator. They will answer the tough questions surrounding your business in areas like security, storage, taxes, accounting, compliance, insurance, marketing, legal protections, and so on.
Cannabis application writers will also ensure that the content is free of any biases. Many people who attempt to accomplish the application on their own may not realize that answers that are too passionate may hurt their chances of being awarded a license. While it’s done with good intentions, the panel reviewing the applications don’t want biased opinions or humor; they want your application to demonstrate your technical understanding of the processes and operations of running a cannabis business. More than anything, they want to determine your business’s potential for profitability while remaining compliant to state marijuana policies and regulations.
Competitive Edge – If your state is still in the process of legalizing recreational marijuana or still refining its medical marijuana program, a cannabis consultant can help you get a headstart on the competition. A pre-license assessment can help you identify your gaps, weaknesses, and areas where you can improve to ensure you’re ready when your state opens the application window for business licensing.
Each state will have its own rules, policies, regulations, and restrictions when it comes to the cannabis licensing process. Lack of understanding of state-specific laws, licensing information, and the complexities of the marijuana business application process can lead people to underestimate the required timelines and resources.
It’s beneficial to seek the expertise of professional consultants who have a comprehensive understanding of the industry. Many don’t realize that business license applications may be dismissed due to a technicality, such as an incomplete section or missing documents. Because the application process itself can be time-consuming and expensive, it would be a shame to lose what may be your only shot at winning a license because you attempted to do it on your own. Therefore, working with a cannabis consultant when applying for a marijuana license should be approached as an investment.