What I Need to Open a Dispensary in Minnesota
The state rules and regulations to enter medical cannabis retail
on November 11, 2019
Updated on July 21, 2022
In May 2014, then-Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill that allowed for the legalization of medical marijuana at the state level for approved medical conditions. Among other things, the law helped to create a medical marijuana program structure whereby approved businesses were permitted to open dispensaries in the state. In doing so, Minnesota has joined a long line of state in reforming its marijuana laws.
However, in contrast to some other jurisdictions, Minnesota still has extremely tight rules and regulations in place regarding cannabis. As of 2019, recreational use of marijuana by adults is still prohibited. Further, very few medical marijuana and cannabis dispensaries have been given approval to operate in the state.
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are Tightly Regulated in Minnesota: Must Have Four Locations
Minnesota’s medical cannabis program has very strict regulations in place that limit the number of cannabis retail licenses issued by state authorities. As explained by the Minnesota Department of Health, all marijuana businesses are required by state law to open up four distribution (retail) locations. By itself, this regulation would make it difficult for new companies to enter the industry. Opening up four locations at once requires substantial startup capital.
Though, the barriers are even stronger than that. Two different marijuana companies were granted licenses in 2015, when the state’s medical marijuana reforms officially went into effect. These were both cannabis manufacturers, and they were required by state law to do all of their manufacturing, cultivation, and harvesting in one central location. No other cannabis retail licenses will be issued at the current time in Minnesota. Indeed, Minnesota state regulators are not currently accepting or reviewing any more dispensary license applications. Without reform, the application process is at a halt and no other dispensaries can be opened in Minnesota; the industry is fenced off to new entrants.
Marijuana Reform May Be Coming in the Future
While it is very difficult to enter the retail cannabis business in Minnesota at the current time, change may be coming in the near future. In August 2019, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz ordered state agencies to start making preparations for the potential legalization of recreational marijuana. A bill is expected to come to the floor in the Minnesota House of Representatives and in the Minnesota Senate in 2020. A similar bill made progress, but eventually stalled out last year. However, some observers have noted that there is reason to believe that reforms will be more successful in the 2020 legislative session.
If this legislation is approved, it would legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana and it would create a structure to allow for far more retail licenses to be issued by the state. Of course, the rules and requirements would regulate the licensing of dispensaries are subject to change.
If you have any specific questions or concerns about preparing for potential legal reforms, an experienced Minnesota cannabis law attorney can help. For more information on this area of law, see our overview of cannabis law.