Industry 

Cannabis industry information for businesses including tips, news, and advice for dispensaries.

How to Open a Medical Marijuana Dispensary or Recreational Cannabis Shop in Colorado

Once you get your business up and running, learn how Leafly can help it grow


Interested in starting your own recreational cannabis shop or medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado? Want to join an exciting, rapidly-growing industry before it starts to get crazy crowded? Here’s a handy, step-by-step guide to opening your own cannabis location, whether it’s medical or recreational, in Colorado:

Updated: March 27, 2017

Step-by-Step Process for Opening a Retail Cannabis Store in Colorado

Step 1: Familiarize yourself with Colorado’s Reail Marijuana License Application process.

Step 2: Determine if you meet the criteria to start your own retail cannabis business in Colorado. Applicants must adhere to the following requirements:

  • Must be at least 21 years old
  • Must be a Colorado state resident for at least one year prior to application or share ownership with a Colorado resident that has been a resident for at least one year prior to application.
  • May not have any controlled substance felony convictions in the 10 years immediately preceding their application date, or within five years of May 28, 2013, whichever is longer.
  • May not have any other felony convictions that haven’t been fully discharged for five years prior to your application date
  • May not be financed in whole or in part by anyone whose criminal history indicates poor moral character or a reputation that’s dissatisfactory to the respective licensing authority
  • May not have a criminal history that indicates poor moral character
  • May not employ, be assisted by, or financed in whole or in part by anyone with a criminal history indicating poor moral character or a negative reputation
  • 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

Step 3: Download and complete the MED Retail Marijuana Business License Application and a Colorado Associated Key Marijuana License Application. Keep in mind that the applications may require additional documentation, such as evidence of the premise to be licensed, copies of tax/wholesale license, funding source disclosure, etc. Note that individuals that already hold an Associated Key Person License do not need to submit this document.

Step 4: If you plan to operate both a Medical Marijuana Center and a Retail Marijuana Store at the same location, you must also download and submit the Combined Use Form confirming that there will be no sales of Medical Marijuana to a person under the age of 21 years at that location.

Step 5: Once you have your documentation, contact DOR_MED_Appointments@state.co.us for an appointment at their headquarter office (1697 Cole Blvd, Suite 200, Lakewood, CO 80401). Include the following information in your email:

  • The name of your business
  • License number
  • Reason for application (include local authority for each license)
  • How many owners will be present during the appointment
  • Contact name and phone number

Step 6: Before your business may begin operation, you must also obtain a license from the Local Authority within whose jurisdiction your business will be operating.

Step 7: Fork over some application fees (note that both the application fee and the initial license fee are due at the time of application):

  • Application fee: $2,500
  • Initial license fee: $2,000
  • Fees due to local authority: $2,500

Step 8: On the day of your appointment:

  • All owners must be present, all forms must be complete, and all licensing fees must be paid.
  • Documents must notarized in advance.
  • If your application is complete, all Associated Key Persons will be fingerpinted and applicants will be expected to pay the both the application and licensing fees.

Step 9: Applicants must also apply for a State Tax License for the type of business they plan to operate.

Step-by-Step Process for Opening a Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Colorado

Step 1: Familiarize yourself with Colorado’s Medical Marijuana License Application process

Step 2: Determine if you fit the criteria to open your own medical marijuana business in Colorado. Applicants must adhere to the following requirements:

  • Must be at least 21 years old
  • Must be a Colorado resident for at least one year prior to application or share ownership with a Colorado resident who has been a resident for at least one year prior to application
  • May not have any controlled substance felony convictions that have not been fully discharged in the 10 years immediately preceding the date of application. Except the State Licensing Authority may grant a license to a person if the person has a State felony conviction based on possession or use of marijuana or marijuana concentrate that would not be a felony if the person were convicted of the offence on the date of application
  • May not have any other felony convictions that haven’t been fully discharged for five years prior to your application date
  • May not have a criminal history that indicates poor moral character
  • May not employ, be assisted by, or financed in whole or in part by anyone with a criminal history indicating poor moral character or a negative reputation
  • May not be a licensed physician making patient recommendations, a sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, prosecuting officer, or by employed by either a local or State Licensing Authority
  • May not employ anyone that hasn’t passed a criminal history record check
  • Must confirm with the Local Authority where you plan to operate your business allows medical marijuana facilities to operate within their jurisdiction

Step 3: Download and complete the MED Medical Marijuana Business License Application form and an MED Associated Key Person Application Form for each individual owner. Submit both completed forms, including necessary documentation (such as court records, tax documents, etc).

Step 4: Once you have your documentation, contact DOR_MED_Appointments@state.co.us for an appointment at their headquarter office (1697 Cole Blvd., Suite 200, Lakewood, CO 80401). Include the following information in your email:

  • The name of your business
  • License number
  • Reason for application (include local authority for each license)
  • How many owners will be present during appointment
  • Contact name and phone number

Step 5: Fork over some application fees (note that both the application fee and the initial license fee are due at the time of application):

  • Application fee: $6,000 – $14,000 (depending on Center Type and patient count)
  • Initial license fee: $3,000 – $8,000

Step 6: Before your business may begin operation, you must also obtain a license from the Local Authority within whose jurisdiction your business will be operating.

Step 7: Applicants must also apply for a State Tax License for the type of business they plan to operate.

Once you complete the process and are awarded either a medical marijuana or recreational cannabis store license, you can start shifting your attention to marketing your business after it’s fully operational. Find out how Leafly’s cannabis business marketing services can help bring your business to the next level!

Stand out with Leafly marketing services

Image source: LivWell on Broadway