7 min read

How to Get Obtain a Dispensary License in Montana 2024

June 21, 2024

Legalizing recreational cannabis in Montana has opened up new opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses in the state. As of November 2020, Montana voters approved the legalization, allowing adults to purchase and consume cannabis for recreational purposes. To operate legally in the cannabis market, obtaining a dispensary license is crucial because it ensures your business complies with state regulations, maintains product quality, and promotes responsible consumption. The Montana Department of Revenue, as the governing body responsible for issuing dispensary licenses and overseeing the regulatory framework, plays a pivotal role in this process. Understanding how to obtain a dispensary license in Montana in 2024 is the first step toward a successful venture in the cannabis industry.

Moratorium on New Licenses

As of 2023, Montana extended the moratorium on issuing new cannabis dispensary licenses until July 1, 2025, meaning only existing medical marijuana providers can transition to recreational sales. This decision, under House Bills 128 and 903, aims to regulate the market and ensure stability, and prospective applicants must be aware of this restriction and plan accordingly. There are rumors the moratorium will be extended till 2027. Tribal nations are still allowed to expand their operations, providing some flexibility within the current regulatory environment​.

Understanding the Licensing Process  

Applying for a dispensary license in Montana involves several detailed steps to ensure only qualified and responsible individuals or businesses enter the cannabis market. The applicants must meet residency requirements, proving they have lived in Montana for at least one year before applying. Additionally, all applicants must be at least 21 years of age.

The first step is to gather all necessary documentation, including proof of Montana residency, identification, and financial statements. Applicants must also submit a detailed business plan outlining their operational strategy, marketing plan, and financial projections.

The application process requires completing and submitting an official form through the Montana Department of Revenue‘s online portal. This form includes information about the applicant, the proposed business location, and any individuals involved.

Essential licensing requirements include passing a thorough background check to ensure no criminal history related to drug offenses. Applicants must also demonstrate financial stability and have a secure, compliant location for their dispensary. Additionally, they must develop a comprehensive security and inventory management plan to comply with Montana’s regulatory standards.

The Montana Department of Revenue also mandates that dispensary owners and employees participate in ongoing education to stay updated with laws and changes in industry standards. By meeting these rigorous licensing requirements, applicants demonstrate their commitment to operating a responsible and compliant cannabis dispensary in Montana, thus contributing to the industry’s overall integrity and success.

Once the application is submitted, it undergoes a review process, during which the Montana Department of Revenue assesses the applicant’s qualifications and readiness to operate a dispensary. Meeting these licensing requirements is essential to obtain approval and legally operate a dispensary in Montana.

Retail License Types 

Dispensary Licenses

Dispensary licenses allow the sale of marijuana to registered cardholders and/or adult-use consumers. Medical-only dispensaries can sell only to cardholders, while adult-use dispensaries can sell to both. Applications for new licenses start on 7/1/2025, and existing businesses can apply for additional locations. Each location requires a separate license, costing $5,000, plus a 20% non-refundable processing fee. Applications are processed through the TransAction Portal (TAP).

Combined-Use Licenses

Combined-use licenses are designed for Montana’s eight federally recognized tribes or entities that they mostly own. This includes both a cultivation and a dispensary license, allowing the operation of a dispensary. Each tribe can have only one combined-use license, and eight such licenses can be issued. Licensees are exempt from certain moratoriums and can apply via the TransAction Portal (TAP). The initial and annual fee is $7,500.

For more detailed information, visit the Montana Department of Revenue’s Cannabis Licenses page.

License Specifics and Restrictions

  1. Sales Limits: Each type of dispensary has specific limits on the amount of cannabis that can be sold. For example, adult-use dispensaries can sell up to 1 ounce of usable marijuana per transaction, while medical dispensaries may have different limits based on patient needs​ (Montana State Legislature)​.
  2. Product Regulations: All dispensaries must adhere to strict product regulations, including THC content limits. For instance, edibles sold in adult-use dispensaries must not exceed 100 milligrams of THC per package, with individual servings capped at 10 milligrams​ (Montana State Legislature)​.
  3. Compliance with Tracking Systems: All retail license holders must use the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system (METRC) to monitor the production, distribution, and sale of cannabis products. This helps maintain compliance and prevent diversion into the illegal market​ (Montana Administrative Rules)​​(Montana State Legislature)​.
  4. Employee Requirements: Employees must undergo background checks and complete training programs tailored to the specific type of license under which they are working. This ensures all staff members are knowledgeable about state regulations and industry best practices​ (Montana Administrative Rules)​​ (Montana State Legislature)​.

By understanding the different retail license types and their specific permissions, prospective dispensary owners can better navigate the regulatory landscape and choose the license that best fits their business model and goals.

Additional Costs

Additional costs include:

  • Background check fees ($30 per check).
  • Mandatory training programs.
  • Expenses related to securing property ownership or obtaining owner permission.

Prospective dispensary owners should not only budget for these expenses, but also legal fees for consulting with attorneys and developing a comprehensive business plan​ (Montana Administrative Rules)​.

Seed-to-Sale Tracking and Compliance

Seed-to-sale tracking is a critical component in maintaining compliance with Montana’s cannabis industry regulations, ensuring every cannabis plant and product is monitored from its initial cultivation to its final sale to consumers. Seed-to-sale tracking is important because it can prevent diversion and illegal sales, thereby ensuring all cannabis sold is legally produced and distributed.

The sales tracking system used in Montana is METRC (Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance), which allows the Montana Department of Revenue to monitor the entire supply chain of cannabis products. Dispensaries must use METRC to log every stage of the cannabis life cycle, including planting, harvesting, testing, transporting, and selling.

To comply with state regulations, dispensaries must meticulously record all relevant data in METRC, ensuring each product has a unique identifier that can be tracked through the system. This comprehensive tracking helps to maintain transparency and accountability within the industry. 

Failure to comply with seed-to-sale tracking requirements can result in severe penalties, including fines, suspension, or revocation of a dispensary license. Therefore, dispensaries must adhere strictly to these regulations, ensuring all operations are transparent and fully compliant with Montana’s stringent cannabis laws. This is why a POS system that can automate compliance is vital for dispensaries. For example, IndicaOnline POS can fully automate dispensary compliance processes. 

Location and Zoning Requirements

Selecting a suitable location is crucial when planning to open a dispensary in Montana. Dispensaries must comply with strict zoning requirements set by the state: a cannabis dispensary in Montana must be situated a certain distance away from schools, parks, and other areas frequented by minors. These zoning laws are designed to minimize the impact of dispensaries on vulnerable populations.

Prospective dispensary owners should thoroughly research local zoning regulations and consult with local government offices to select an appropriate location. Securing a property that meets these requirements is essential to avoid potential legal issues and ensure smooth application approval.

Community impact assessments and local approvals are also vital, so engaging with the community and obtaining local government endorsements makes sense because it can significantly enhance the chances of success. Demonstrating that the dispensary will operate responsibly and contribute positively to the local area is crucial in gaining support from the community and regulatory bodies.

Application Timeline and Important Dates

Since recreational cannabis was legalized in Montana in November 2020, the state has been accepting applications for dispensary licenses on an ongoing basis. Key dates in the application process include the initial submission and a review period conducted by the Montana Department of Revenue. Typically, the timeline from submission to approval can take several months, depending on the completeness of the application and the thoroughness of the background checks and site inspections. To facilitate a smooth approval process, prospective dispensary owners should ensure all required documentation is accurate and comprehensive.


In summary, understanding how to get a dispensary license in Montana in 2024 involves:

  • Conducting a detailed application process.
  • Meeting specific licensing requirements.
  • Adhering to seed-to-sale tracking.
  • Selecting a compliant location.

Early preparation is critical in ensuring a smooth application process. Prospective dispensary owners should gather all necessary documentation, familiarize themselves with state regulations, and start their application process as soon as possible. For further assistance, and to ensure you meet all the criteria and deadlines for a successful application, contact the Montana Department of Revenue, the governing body responsible for dispensary licensing.