How to Open a Dispensary in Hawaii

7 min read

How to Open a Dispensary in Hawaii

March 27, 2023

Cannabis dispensaries have become an increasingly common sight in many parts of the United States, and Hawaii is no exception. As of 2023, medical marijuana is legal in Hawaii, and the state has approved a number of licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis products to qualified patients. Besides, on June 9, 2019, Hawaii decriminalized marijuana with the passing of HB 1383. The new law removes the possibility of jail time as a penalty for up to three grams of marijuana but maintains a $130 fine. 

These dispensaries offer a wide range of marijuana products, including flowers, concentrates, edibles, and more. They have become a popular destination for individuals seeking relief from various medical conditions. In this article, we will explore the world of cannabis dispensaries in Hawaii, looking at the history of medical marijuana in the state, the regulations governing the sale and use of cannabis products, and the different types of products available at the dispensaries throughout the state.

How to Get a Dispensary License in Hawaii

In Hawaii, the first application period for medical cannabis dispensary licenses closed on January 29, 2016, and eight licenses were issued. And the first dispensary opened its doors to the customer in 2017. Currently, there is no indication from the state that they will be issuing new licenses in the near future. The growth of the cannabis industry in Hawaii is expected to depend on the passage of adult-use legislation. The eight licensed dispensaries that currently operate are allowed to grow, process, distribute, and sell medical cannabis to patients who have been medically licensed.

The responsibility of ensuring safe and legal access to medical cannabis for eligible patients in Hawaii lies with the Medical Cannabis Dispensary Program, which serves as the regulatory authority throughout the state. The Hawaii Department of Health oversees the state’s marijuana program, including processing applications and ensuring public safety measures are in place.

Obtaining a Hawaii dispensary license requires following a specific process established by the state’s Department of Health. The following are general steps regarding how to get a dispensary license in Hawaii:

  1. Meet the Requirements: Hawaii requires applicants to meet several criteria before applying for a dispensary license. These include having at least 51% of ownership or being a resident of Hawaii for at least five years before the application submission, having a background check completed, and having enough financial resources to operate a dispensary.
  2. Apply: Once an applicant meets the eligibility requirements, they must submit an application to the Hawaii Department of Health. The application must include detailed information about the dispensary, such as its location, security measures, and product offerings.
  3. Pay Application Fees: Applicants must pay a non-refundable application fee and an additional licensing fee if approved.
  4. Wait for Approval: After submitting the application and fees, the Hawaii Department of Health will review the application and determine if the applicant meets all requirements. If approved, the applicant will be granted a license.
  5. Open a Dispensary: Once the license is obtained, the dispensary can begin to operate and sell medical cannabis to eligible patients in Hawaii. However, the dispensary must follow strict regulations and guidelines set forth by the state’s Department of Health.

It is essential to note that obtaining a dispensary license in Hawaii can be complex, and it is advisable to seek legal counsel to ensure all requirements are met.

How Much Does it Cost to Open a Dispensary in Hawaii?

Below is a list of the fees necessary to open a dispensary in Hawaii:

  • Non-refundable application fee of $5,000
  • Dispensary License Initial Fee: $75,000
  • Dispensary License Renewal Fee: $50,000

How Much Does a Marijuana Dispensary in Hawaii Make?

According to estimates, marijuana dispensaries and delivery services can generate annual revenues ranging from $50,000 to millions. Dispensaries in Hawaii will likely earn at least this average amount if not more. 

Create a Comprehensive Cannabis Business Plan to Open a Dispensary in Hawaii

Drafting a comprehensive business plan to open a dispensary in Hawaii requires careful research, analysis, and attention to detail. Here are some steps you can follow to create a detailed and compelling business plan:

  1. Conduct Market Research: Analyze the current cannabis market in Hawaii, including the competition and potential customer base. Gather data on market trends, consumer preferences, and regulations that impact the industry.
  2. Define Your Business: Determine the dispensary’s legal structure, ownership, and mission. Identify the products and services you will offer and your pricing strategy.
  3. Develop a Marketing Plan: Determine how you will reach your target market, including advertising, promotions, and events. Outline the tactics you will use to increase brand awareness and generate sales.
  4. Outline Operations: Describe the day-to-day operations of the dispensary, including staffing, inventory management, and record-keeping. Identify suppliers and vendors, and describe your quality control and testing procedures.
  5. Create a Financial Plan: Develop a comprehensive financial plan that includes projected income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Conduct a break-even analysis and identify potential sources of financing.
  6. Address Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Develop a plan to comply with all state and local laws and regulations governing cannabis dispensaries in Hawaii. Identify potential risks and develop a risk management plan to address them.
  7. Draft and Revise the Plan: Use the information gathered in the previous steps to draft a detailed business plan. Review and adjust the plan as needed, and seek feedback from trusted advisors.

This information can help you identify potential challenges and opportunities and create a plan to address them, increasing the likelihood of success among lenders and investors to win their funding and open a dispensary in Hawaii.  

Overall, a comprehensive cannabis dispensary business plan is critical for any cannabis entrepreneur looking to start or expand a successful business in Hawaii. 

How to Choose the Best Dispensary Location in Hawaii

Choosing the best dispensary location in Hawaii involves careful consideration of several factors. Here are some steps to follow when selecting a dispensary location:

  1. Research Local Zoning Laws and Regulations: Familiarize yourself with Hawaii’s zoning regulations and local laws to identify any restrictions on where a cannabis dispensary can be located. Some areas may have zoning restrictions prohibiting dispensaries from operating in certain areas, such as near schools or residential neighborhoods.
  2. Consider Foot Traffic and Accessibility: Look for a location that is easily accessible to customers, with ample parking and public transportation options. Consider the surrounding area and the level of foot traffic, both pedestrian and vehicle.
  3. Evaluate the Cost: Determine the rent, utilities, and other expenses associated with the location. 
  4. Assess the Community: Consider the community’s values and attitudes towards cannabis. Some areas may be more accepting of cannabis use than others, so it’s essential to understand the local perspectives and how they might impact your business.
  5. Consult with Experts: Seek the advice of real estate agents, industry professionals, and legal experts to help you navigate complex regulations and choose the best location for your dispensary.

By following these steps, you can identify the best dispensary location in Hawaii that will allow you to operate successfully and meet your customers’ needs while adhering to local laws and regulations.


The cannabis industry-specific BioTrack software is a top Seed-to-Sale inventory management and Dispensary Point-of-Sale program. Hawaii-based marijuana dispensaries must integrate this monitoring system.

Security Plan

Creating a security plan is essential to open a dispensary in Hawaii. Here are some key elements to consider when developing a comprehensive security plan:

  1. Perimeter Security: Ensure that the perimeter of your dispensary is secure by installing perimeter fencing, surveillance cameras, and an alarm system. Ensure all access points are secured with keypads, and utilize a security guard to monitor the entrance.
  2. Access Control: Use an access control system, such as keycard access, to restrict access to dispensary areas where cannabis products are stored. This system should be programmed to restrict access only to authorized personnel.
  3. Alarm System: Install an alarm system to alert you and the authorities in case of an attempted break-in or security breach. It should also have a panic button or silent alarm that can be activated in case of an emergency.
  4. Surveillance: Install a surveillance system that provides coverage of all areas within and outside the dispensary. The system should include high-definition cameras with night vision capabilities, motion detectors, and a backup power source. Retain video footage for a minimum of 90 days.
  5. Inventory Control: Implement an inventory control system that tracks all cannabis products from when they are received until when they are sold. This system should include regular physical inventory counts and procedures to detect discrepancies.
  6. Personnel Screening: Screen all personnel to ensure they have no criminal records or history of drug use. Conduct background checks on all staff and contractors with access to the dispensary or cannabis products.
  7. Training: Ensure that all employees are trained in security procedures, including responding to security breaches or emergencies.

By developing a comprehensive security plan, you can protect your dispensary, staff, and customers and ensure you comply with all Hawaii state regulations.


In conclusion, cannabis dispensaries in Hawaii are subject to strict regulations and requirements that must be followed to operate legally. A comprehensive business plan, including location, security, and financial planning considerations, is essential for success in this industry. Hawaii’s medical cannabis program allows licensed dispensaries to cultivate, process, and sell cannabis products to patients with qualifying medical conditions. While the state has issued limited licenses, the revenue potential is significant. The industry is expected to grow with the potential for future adult-use legalization. By following the proper protocols and developing a sound business plan, cannabis dispensaries in Hawaii can provide safe, legal access to medical cannabis and thrive in this exciting and emerging industry.

So, get started today!