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Can a Felon Own a Dispensary?

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You may have an interest in the up-and-coming cannabis industry and wonder if a felon can own a dispensary. Let’s take a look at this question.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:

  • What Is a Dispensary?
  • Types of Dispensaries
  • Requirements to Own a Dispensary
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Background Check?
  • A Plan for Success


What Is a Dispensary?

A dispensary is a store in which certain types of items are sold or dispensed. Since the early 1990s, cannabis dispensaries have been present in certain areas of the U.S. 

Typically, a dispensary sells marijuana legally along with products related to cannabis usage. A dispensary is legally allowed to grow its own cannabis. 

Of course, each dispensary is allowed to sell cannabis, which is considered to be a Schedule 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substance Act. This means that it’s classified as a potential drug use product, and it cannot be prescribed, merely recommended.

Types of Dispensaries

There are two different types of dispensaries, depending on what items they carry. These are medical and recreational dispensaries.

A medical dispensary is allowed to sell marijuana according to a licensed physician’s recommendation.

Since it is medically related, a medical dispensary is laid out like a doctor’s office. This provides a customer with the feeling and experience of actually being in a secure, professional doctor’s office.

Its method of operation is to employ persons, called “bud tenders” who assist individuals in deciding on the appropriate dose of cannabis and its method of delivery.

A recreational dispensary is a store, called an adult-use store that provides cannabis for customers to purchase for recreational or pleasure use.

Currently, 28 states permit medical dispensaries and eight of those states also allow adult-use dispensaries.

Requirements to Own a Dispensary

Dispensaries are under the guidelines of local governments in each individual state. There are numerous, strict requirements to meet to be allowed to own and operate a dispensary.

While state laws regarding owning a dispensary may vary, the following guidelines generally apply to be able to own a dispensary:

  • Must be located in a state in which the sale of cannabis is legal
  • Must be at least 21 years old
  • Must be a state resident for at least two years prior to application
  • Must complete all required applications
  • May not be a sheriff, deputy sheriff, police office, prosecuting officer, or be employed by a local or state licensing authority
  • May not employ anyone that hasn’t passed a criminal history record check

Each dispensary must be located at least 500 to 1,000 feet from schools, churches, and other restricted areas depending on state laws.

Each dispensary must have a complete business plan detailing the owner, licenses, lease, and operating costs. The business must agree to follow all safety regulations.

In addition to these general guidelines, a potential owner of a dispensary must apply for and be granted several types of business licenses. These include a license for each of the following:

  • Retail stores
  • Cultivation facilities 
  • Testing facilities 
  • Manufacturers of edibles and other finished goods

An Opportunity for Felons?

There are very strict criteria that you must meet if you want to own a dispensary. Among these are you may not have a felony drug conviction within the past 10 years. 

In fact, the law indicates that if you have a drug-related offense in the past 10 years you may not own, be employed at, invest in, or serve as a board member of any cannabis-related business.

You may also not have any type of felony conviction that has not been completed in the past five years.

In addition, the law generally states that you may not be involved with a dispensary at all if your criminal history reflects poor moral character or a reputation that’s dissatisfactory to the respective licensing authority.

Background Check?

Of course you didn’t have a background check run in the past when you may have been involved with marijuana, either using or selling. But now that you are on the other side of the law, seeking to own a dispensary, it’s all different.

In order to comply with the laws in the state in which you reside when you are trying to open a dispensary, you must undergo a background check to get a license. This background check will focus on your criminal history over the past 10 years and will look for any felony conviction, but especially a drug offense.

You will have to give permission to the State Licensing Authority to conduct the background check. It will be a state and national check and will involve fingerprinting, with those prints being run through the FBI fingerprint base.

That helps assure that if you have had any involvement with the criminal justice system during the last 10 years, there will be a hit on your prints. 

If any drug conviction is discovered, it will end your chances at being able to own a cannabis dispensary.

A Plan for Success

So what do you do if you want to open and own a cannabis dispensary? Of course you need to resolve your legal problems, including completing all aspects of your conviction for whatever crime you have committed.

For a drug-related offense, you must be at least 10 years past this conviction. For any other offense, the crime must be at least five years old and completely resolved.

You could run a background check on yourself to see what the Licensing Authority in your state would find if they ran a background check on you.

To give yourself the best chance at owning a dispensary, you would have the greatest success if you have your record expunged. That way you could honestly state on a licensing application that you have not been convicted of a felony.

It would be in your best interest to check to see if you are eligible to have your record expunged.

Give yourself every possible advantage. You have made plenty of mistakes in the past, but you don’t have to be defined by them. You are defined by how you recover from those mistakes.

If your dream is to own a dispensary, don’t hold yourself back and don’t get discouraged and give up. You can live an honest lifestyle that could include owning a cannabis dispensary.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to own a dispensary with a felony? What was that like, and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Can a Felon Own a Dispensary?”

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  4. I have a felony from over 10 years ago and I am wanting to do anything I can to open my own dispensary in Missouri. If there is any advise anyone can give me on how to get legitimate loans and ways to get up and started please let me know so I can get my business plan put together for the licensing process.

  5. I have a violent felony in the state of California that is a year old. I have been getting calls from dispensaries about my experience and professionalism however when it comes down to the actual hiring process I am always denied the opportunity, what is the best way around this? I have been hired as an outside consultant for many dispensaries but it’s forcing me to stay in the black market when I actually try and to be legal about it. I can’t feed my family on 40-50k a year why I am choosing to stay in the black market. Any advice anyone?


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