How to Run a Cannabis Dispensary: The Best Guide on the Internet

Operating a Cannabis Dispensary

Running a business is hard, especially when you’re trying to figure out how to run a dispensary. There’s a lot to consider when opening a cannabis dispensary, from licensing and finances to day-to-day operations and business growth. Knowing each step and how to succeed is crucial in the growing and competitive cannabis market. Your passion for the cannabis industry has put your foot in the door, now your friends at BLAZE will get you the rest of the way.

Running Your Cannabis Dispensary

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that starting your cannabis dispensary is one of the hardest parts. A lot goes into getting your business up and running, especially from the legal side. The laws and requirements for your dispensary will change depending on your state, but there are things you can expect.


Getting ready to open and run a dispensary requires some serious dough. Most states require a significant amount of money in liquidity before granting you your license. There are also hefty licensing fees  (we’ll talk more about those later). Lastly, there are all the normal expenses that a business will have. These include securing a brick and mortar location, inventory, staff and training, and marketing. These costs will be around half a million dollars at a minimum, likely in the multi-millions. 

Getting your money together to run a dispensary will take a couple of things. You’ll need some savings to get a business account started. From there, you’ll want to seek out investors to help contribute. This can give you a substantial cash boost and ideally partners or mentors who can give you the help you need to push you to the starting line. Lastly, you’ll want to find a bank or credit union to store your money. There can be plenty of hurdles finding a bank that is willing to work in the cannabis industry, so do your research. From here, you’re ready to deal with licensing.

-Licensing and Requirements for Your Dispensary

By design, getting into the cannabis industry is no walk in the park. States have strict rules on who and who can’t open a dispensary in their state. What is required in opening a cannabis dispensary in California, isn’t going to be the same in opening a cannabis dispensary in Colorado. While the laws and regulations change from state to state, you can expect a couple of things. First there will be an application and application fee. You’ll submit your business information and finances. If you are approved, you’ll have to apply for licenses and pay any fees associated with it.

Many states have a limited number of licenses available, so always check before you get started with the dispensary application and licensing process. Sometimes more licenses are required. This especially true if you are a medical marijuana dispensary or planning on growing your own plants. Once all of this is done, you need to consider your start-up costs.

-Start-Up Costs to Run a Dispensary 

With your finance and licensing taken care of, it’s now time to get your start-up costs in order. Your first big expense will be your brick and mortar location. Depending on your locale, the price could fluctuate dramatically. Make sure you’re looking for a location with high foot traffic and one that is easily accessible. Also keep in mind that not all landlords will be receptive to cannabis dispensaries. It might take some time to find a suitable location to run your dispensary. Be persistent!

From there, getting your staff hired and trained takes an investment. You get what you pay for and it’s especially true with your staff. Making an investment in your team and paying them a fair and competitive salary will build loyalty and allow you to recruit from a skilled talent pool. 

Next comes your marketing costs. There are near limitless ways to market your business. The biggest thing you must do is actually market it. Many companies skimp out on marketing to their own detriment. You can have the greatest cannabis dispensary in the world, but if no one knows about it, does it matter? Dedicate a portion of your monthly budget to marketing and scale it up as your business grows.

Hiring and Training

We touched on hiring and training for your dispensary in the previous section. Now we’ll get into what that actually looks like and how to get your team operating at peak efficiency.  

Hiring the Best

The first step in building a team for your dispensary must start with hiring the right people. Sounds easier than it actually is. First you need to offer competitive pay and benefits. The best budtenders and cannabis professionals have the ability to work wherever they like. Make sure your dispensary has what it takes to draw them in. Next you should consider not only their skills and experience, but how they work with others and how they want to grow in their career. The candidate shouldn’t be perfect (that doesn’t exist), but they should be willing and able to learn and grow. 

Training for Your Cannabis Dispensary Success

Training comes next. Your team should know your processes, software, and systems, like the back of their hand. Spending time teaching these things to your team will pay off big time as you start your business. Knowledgeable and skilled budtenders are a major factor in repeat business. You must also train your team to be compliant. Learn your state mandated compliance systems and teach your employees it as well. This will streamline your cannabis dispensary efficiency and take some of the stress off. Failing to stay compliant can mean legal and criminal trouble for you and your business.


You know that marketing is important and that there are many ways to market your business, but what about specifics? Don’t worry, we wouldn’t skip out on this crucial step.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is an incredible tool in your marketing tool belt. On social media, you can communicate directly to your customers and learn what they like and what they don’t like. You can also market new products and promotions. Better yet, social media is completely free. With some high-quality image/product shots, frequent engagement and enticing offers, you’ll be on your way to building a following in no time. If you want to take your social media marketing to the next level, you can use social media ads for your cannabis dispensary. As a cannabis dispensary, your social media ads are very UNLIKELY to be approved. Social media platforms like Facebook have extremely strict rules on advertising anything like marijuana. However, we’ll include just a little bit of advice on running social media ads in case something changes.

Social Media Ads

These ads are fairly easy to launch and run. Each platform is a little different, but they include some of the same basic steps. You’ll need to find an image or video to use. Ideally you’ll use one of your most popular products, your awesome store, or even your team. Then you need to decide on a budget. Start small and go up from there. More money doesn’t necessarily mean a better ad. Lastly, you’ll need to define your target audience and continually monitor the success of your ad. Are people engaging with it? If so, who? Use this to drive your decision making.

Print Marketing for Your Cannabis Dispensary

Print marketing might seem a way of the past, but that couldn’t be more wrong. Printing flyers, taking ad space in magazines, and finding places to put your name out there gets people interested in your brand. Print media is relatively affordable and is a tangible piece of marketing. With online marketing, there is so much content, that standing out can be a near impossible task. Using things like flyers or space in cannabis magazines, can help you push through some of that noise. 


Billboards are one of the most underused and effective ways of marketing your dispensary. Buying a billboard is far more affordable than you might think and can pull in thousands and thousands of impressions. This is even true for small billboards. You don’t need to only invest in the large signs that hangover highways. Many billboards placed on highway exits, streets, or near other businesses, get plenty of eyes on them.

Growing Your Business

With everything we’ve gone over, your business should be growing more and more every day. It’s crucial to keep this momentum going. There are a couple ways you can do this. 


Promotions are an essential way to keep your customers coming back. By providing deals, giveaways, and exciting events, your customers will have a reason not only to come back and buy more of your products, but to choose your store specifically. Try running a promotion at least once a month. Choosing specific days of the week where certain products are discounted (think taco Tuesday) is a great idea too. Or you can run an end of the month clear-out special. While holiday promotions like 4/20, the 4th of July, and Memorial Day are great and a necessary part of your strategy, don’t overlook the power of a random sale. 

Opening Multiple Dispensary Locations

Once your cannabis dispensary takes off, it might be time to look into opening another location. Another location can expand both the amount of people you can service, and strengthen your brand recognition and identity. Before you do this, check with your state, county, and city, to check for any laws on opening another location. Additionally, only do this when you’re sure you can support it. 

Choosing Your Dispensary Software

As you know there’s no one thing that can make you run your cannabis dispensary successfully. Lots of things go into your dispensary succeeding. One major contributor to this is the dispensary POS software you use to run your dispensary. Choosing the right POS (point of sale) system will affect your business every day. Look for one that is easy to use, offers a wide-range of tools, has great customer support, and integrates with other leading programs. BLAZE Software is one of the best. 

BLAZE Cannabis Software

Your dispensary point-of-sale software is the center of your technology stack. Good cannabis POS software starts doing its magic before the customer gets to the budtender, often through online ordering or beginning at check in after entering the store. This is especially important for doing cannabis business in a post-pandemic world. Every time someone does business with a dispensary, their customer profile is enriched, and their data creates the bridge between them and any dispensary they step into. Budtenders can see a customer’s recent purchases and last visits with a click of a button via the intuitive dispensary management system. 

Cannabis POS software doesn’t just handle the transaction process, but also includes check in, inventory management, features to help ensure compliance, and connectivity with your state track-and-trace system.

An open API that other technology providers can access, or native built-in integrations, is a requirement so that you can integrate the rest of your tools.

BLAZE is one of the few POS software systems that has an open API and boasts over 40 partner integrations. This gives dispensaries the freedom to customize their software stack to their particular business model.  These integrations provide the most accurate data to your other software vendors so you can feel confident making data-driven decisions.

While BLAZE offers an exceptional POS platform, they are a true seed-to-sale ERP system that can help manage cultivation, distribution, and delivery. 

They offer the following solutions while having the best integrations to be the most trusted cannabis ERP:

BLAZE Retail & Delivery (Point of Sale) –  Designed for budtenders, managers, and front desk personnel, the iPad Dispensary POS app makes customer interactions easy. Sign up members and get them checked out quickly by using the fastest, most intuitive dispensary POS software in the industry. With BLAZE® Retail you can also manage your delivery service. Dispatch, inventory, and logistics functionality are built directly into the POS allowing for one solution to handle the most complicated delivery methods. Doing the ice-cream truck/on-demand delivery model? Set up driver kits with their inventory on the go and dynamically dispatch orders to drivers already in the field for them to pack and scan with their phone!

BLAZEPAYBLAZEPAY™ is a Point of Banking debit processing that is fully integrated with BLAZE® Retail Point of Sale (POS). Point of Banking (cashless ATM) systems support authorized PIN-based card transactions. This allows your customers to pay with their ATM/debit cards and credit cards (with a PIN). Automatic nightly batching sent directly to the merchants bank of account.

BLAZE Distro – Designed for cannabis distributors, BLAZE® Distro makes it easy to manage invoices, purchase orders, and expenses. Quickly generate California compliant shipping manifests at a click of a button. Cannabis excise and cultivation tax are built into the system. This ensures you’re collecting and tracking everything so that you’re running a successful distribution.

BLAZE Grow – Designed from the ground up for cannabis cultivators, by cannabis cultivators. BLAZE® Grow seed-to-sale software makes it easy to manage your entire cultivation along with your packaging and sales processes. Quickly generate compliant shipping manifests with the click of a button. Cultivation taxes is automatically calculates and included to ensure compliance.

These are just a few of the BLAZE integrations. BLAZE partners with the best in the industry, like WeedMaps, Onfleet, and Tookan. Click here to see the full list and learn more about each integration.


Getting ready to run your dispensary takes a lot of planning and effort, but it is well worth it. The cannabis industry is looming, and more opportunity exists for those who will take it. This guide covers everything you need to know to get your dispensary off the ground and standing out amongst the competition. 

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