How to Open a Cannabis Dispensary in Illinois

If you’re looking for all the know how to open a cannabis dispensary in Illinois, then let’s dive in. Illinois was the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana, and the first to do so through legislation. This happened in 2019, and delays resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic make owning and operating a cannabis dispensary a relatively new, open frontier. 

In this post, we’re covering all the basics you need to know to open a cannabis dispensary in Illinois. 


The Illinois cannabis licensing process is monitored by The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). 

The first step is acquiring a conditional adult-use dispensing organization license. Next, you have to secure a premises record-keeping where the dispensary will be located. The final license will be issued once the dispensary location is inspected and deemed compliant.

To open a new dispensary in Illinois, you’ll need to pay licensing costs. They come in the form of a $5,000 nonrefundable application fee ($2,500 if you qualify as a social equity applicant) and a $60,000 licensing fee ($30,000 for social equity applicants). The licensing fee covers a two-year lease and will need to be renewed. 

Illinois cannabis licenses come in five types: 

  • Cultivation centers
  • Craft growers
  • Processors 
  • Transporting organizations
  • Dispensing organizations

Applicants are required to provide fingerprints and a background check. 

Licenses are awarded on a 250 point system. Here are some of the factors that go into scoring :

  • Security and record keeping 
  • Business plan, financials, floor plan, operations plan 
  • Human resource training plan
  • Cannabis knowledge and experience 
  • Diversity and inclusion plan
  • Employment and labor practices 


How to open a dispensary in Chicago

How to run a cannabis dispensary is all about location. After your conditional license is approved, you have 180 days or 6 months to choose a dispensary location according to the following requirements: 

  • Must be suitable for public access 
  • Layout must be conducive to the safe dispensation of cannabis 
  • Must have adequate size, lighting, power allocation, product handling, and storage 
  • Must have adequate parking g and handicapped-accessible entry and exit spaces
  • Cannot be located within 1,000 feet of another dispensary, school, residential zone, or place of worship. 

Cost of Business Operations

Upfront costs for running a cannabis retail business in Illinois run from $75,000 to $180,000. That includes real estate, equipment, and security. Monthly operating costs will be between $26,000 and $71,000 monthly. 

Operating expenses include:

  • lease: typically runs between $2 and $20,000, 
  • attorney costs: about $3,000 
  • payroll for staff: around $10,000-$15,000
  • Marketing: around $2,000
  • Minimum working capital for $100 revenue/month: between $9,000 and $20,000
  • Other business costs: $2,000-$4,000


Here’s what you should expect to pay your dispensary staff in Illinois:

  • Budtender: $13-$14 per hour
  • Floor manager: $16-$18 per hour
  • Compliance/inventory manager: $20-$30 per hour

Properly trained and paid staff will pay off dividends in running your cannabis dispensary in Illinois. They’ll also play a big role in cannabis dispensary customer retention.


Cannabis dispensary security Illinois

Regulations require your dispensary business plan to detail how you plan to prevent theft and other crime from occurring in and around your property. This plan must outline safety procedures that protect customers and staff in the event of a breakin, as well as detailed protocols for storing and delivering cannabis products record-keeping and cash. 

Marketing and Promotion

The state of Illinois prohibits dispensaries from advertising their marijuana businesses in public transit, within 1,000 feet of hospitals, recreational centers, schools, and public libraries, and on any public property.

And Finally, Technology

Running a cannabis dispensary in Illinois requires state of the art point of sale technology, and we’ve got you covered there. Blaze handles all your technology needs, with Seed to Sale software, specialized distribution software, and a sophisticated suite of dispensary POS software to help you manage everything from growing to selling cannabis in Illinois. 


Opening up a dispensary is tedious, but worth it. The cannabis industry is growing rapidly and cannabis use is on the rise in every adult demographic. That’s why now is  the perfect time to open a dispensary. 

Dispensaries that use BLAZE cannabis POS software have a major advantage. Our seed-to-sale software enables vertical integration that can elevate your dispensary to new heights. BLAZE retail software takes the worry out of inventory management and reporting. And powerful integrations make sure you’re covered on all fronts – from cultivation to compliance, and even delivery. Book a demo with BLAZE today if you’d like to open a dispensary in the simplest way possible.

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