Get It Right the First Time: Best Practices for Owning a Medical Cannabis Dispensary

By Aseem Sappal, MD, Provost and Dean of Faculty at Oaksterdam University

Many people interested in the medical cannabis industry want to set up dispensaries. However, starting and maintaining a dispensary is not as easy as it might look. Like other businesses, dispensaries must balance quality, price, selection, location and service, but they must also understand patient relations, procurement and allocation, operations and business management, business structures, and civics. The following dispensary best practices are at the foundation of what we teach in our business courses at Oaksterdam University.

 Understand Legal Requirements. A medical cannabis dispensary must comply with state and local regulations. State laws vary from state-to-state and staying compliance is a foundation for staying in business. Consult with an experienced cannabis attorney to understand how to apply for permits and licenses, what business license will best meet your needs, how to pay taxes though cannabis is still illegal federally, what advertising restrictions exist, and more.

 Educate Yourself and Your Staff. Learn the science behind cannabis, the proper terminology, and how it can be used as medicine. Patients will be looking to you for knowledge about different methods of ingestion, potency, purity and effects as well as about edibles, dosages and other items you may have in your dispensary. Educating your entire staff will pay off in the long run.

Know Your Plants. This goes beyond knowing the different types and strains of cannabis – which is an important part of educating yourself – to knowing your growers and how to identify product worthy of providing to your patients. How do your farmers treat mold, mildew, pests and pathogens? Maintain a steady supply of high-quality cannabis and cannabis infused products.

Provide Superior Patient Relations. Patients have different ailments and experience consuming medical cannabis. Be proactive and available to patients. It’s your job to understand their needs and to help them explore what is available in your dispensary as well as advise them on use, dosage, and effects.

Have Top Notch Security. Good security is necessary for dispensaries. A solid security plan will also provide you with an outline of your security needs. Whether you have comprehensive security or just a camera and security guard, your efforts will reduce your chances of being robbed, draw less attention from the authorities, and ensure patients feel safe in your dispensary.

Be a Trusted Neighbor. Keep your property clean and neat. Be friendly. Pay your taxes. Keep detailed records. Make good hiring decisions. Pay unemployment taxes. Obey the law. Install an air-filtration system. Do right by your employees and patients.

Oaksterdam University’s academic departments include business, history, horticulture, culinary arts, law, social science and applied sciences—all regarding cannabis and the cannabis industry. To learn more, please visit Oaksterdam University’s website ( or call us at 510-251-1544. *Reminder – OU opens its campus in Las Vegas this November.

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