How to Open a Dispensary in North Dakota

7 min read

How to Open a Dispensary in North Dakota

April 5, 2023

This article will explore how to open a dispensary in North Dakota, considering the fact that cannabis dispensaries have become a topic of discussion and interest in North Dakota since the legalization of medical marijuana in 2016. With the passing of Measure 5, patients with certain medical conditions are allowed to purchase and consume medical cannabis to alleviate symptoms and improve their quality of life. North Dakota has seen opening dispensaries, which are increasing, providing patients access to a range of cannabis products, including flowers, edibles, concentrates, and more.  While the cannabis industry is still in its early stages in North Dakota, the increasing number of dispensaries and its positive impact on patients has led to a greater acceptance of the plant in the state. This article will explore the current state of cannabis dispensaries in North Dakota, their impact on patients, and the potential for future growth in the industry.   

How to Get a Dispensary License in North Dakota  

If you wonder how to get a dispensary license in North Dakota, you must know that it involves several steps and requirements. First, applicants must meet specific eligibility criteria, including being a North Dakota resident, passing a criminal background check, and meeting financial and operational requirements. Next, applicants must submit a detailed application to the North Dakota Department of Health, including the following:

  • Business Plan – A detailed plan outlining the proposed dispensary’s business model, including financial projections, marketing strategies, and staffing plans.
  • Security Plan – A comprehensive plan detailing the dispensary’s security measures, including surveillance systems, alarms, and procedures for handling theft or other security threats.
  • The Compliance Plan outlines how the dispensary will comply with North Dakota’s medical marijuana laws, regulations, and reporting requirements.
  • Operating Procedures – A detailed outline of how the dispensary will operate, including hours of operation, product inventory and management, and procedures for interacting with customers and patients.
  • Financial Statements – Detailed financial statements demonstrating the applicant’s financial stability and ability to operate the dispensary.
  • North Dakota Residency Verification – Proof of residency in North Dakota, such as a driver’s license or utility bill.
  • Background Check – A criminal background check for all proposed owners and employees of the dispensary.

If the application is approved, the applicant must obtain a permit to operate from the Department of Health and comply with ongoing reporting and compliance requirements. It’s important to note that getting a North Dakota dispensary license is highly competitive and subject to strict regulations, so applicants should be prepared to invest significant time and resources into the application process.

How Much Does It Cost to Open a Dispensary in North Dakota

There are some general costs to consider when planning to open a dispensary in North Dakota:

  • Application Fees – The North Dakota Department of Health charges a non-refundable application fee of $5,000 for a dispensary license.
  • Licensing Fees – If the application is approved, the dispensary must pay an annual licensing fee of $90,000 to the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH). 
  • Real Estate and Construction Costs – Rent or purchase costs of a suitable property, leasehold improvements, and construction costs to meet security and compliance requirements.
  • Security Costs – Costs for security systems, cameras, alarms, and security personnel to meet regulatory requirements.
  • Inventory Costs – Purchasing inventory, including medical marijuana and other supplies.
  • Employee Salaries and Benefits – Wages, benefits, and training costs.
  • Legal and Consulting Fees – Fees for legal and consulting services, including business plan development, license application support, and compliance advice.

How to Draft a Business Plan to Open a Dispensary

When drafting a dispensary business plan, it’s important to ensure it is well-researched, realistic, and comprehensive. It should also be tailored to the specific needs and requirements of the North Dakota medical marijuana industry and demonstrate an understanding of the regulatory landscape:

  • Executive Summary – This should briefly overview the dispensary’s vision, mission, and goals. It should highlight the critical aspects of the business plan, including the target market, unique selling proposition, and financial projections.
  • Market Analysis – A thorough analysis of the target market and competitors is necessary. This should include demographics, consumer behavior, and the competitive landscape.
  • Products and Services – Detail the products and services that the dispensary will offer, including the types of medical marijuana strains and other related products such as tinctures and edibles.
  • Marketing and Sales – Describe the dispensary’s marketing strategy, including advertising, promotions, and sales channels. Identify the target audience and how the dispensary will reach and retain them.
  • Operations and Management – Outline the operational aspects of the dispensary, including day-to-day operations, staffing, and inventory management. It should also include information about the legal and regulatory requirements for opening a dispensary.
  • Financial Plan – Develop a comprehensive financial plan that includes projected revenue and expenses, profit margins, and cash flow projections. It should also include information about funding sources and financial projections for the first few years of operation.


Licensed cannabis dispensaries in North Dakota are obliged to implement a seed-to-sale tracking system to oversee the complete life cycle of cannabis products, from cultivation to sale, while adhering to the North Dakota regulations on tracking and reporting. The tracking software varies state by state, but the required tracking system in North Dakota is Biotrack.

How To Choose the Right Location to Open a Dispensary

Choosing the right dispensary location in North Dakota requires careful consideration of local zoning laws, accessibility, demographics, competition, visibility, safety, and building condition. A well-researched and thought-out location selection can help a dispensary succeed in the competitive medical marijuana industry. 

Make sure that the location you are considering is zoned for a dispensary. North Dakota has strict zoning regulations for dispensaries, so verifying that your potential location complies with these regulations is essential. They must be a thousand feet (app. 310 meters) far from public places like schools and parks. Different municipalities may have additional requirements and restrictions. Analyze the competition in the surrounding area. Check how many dispensaries are already operating in the area and how successful they are.

Considering these factors, you can choose a location to open a dispensary that meets your business’s and target audience’s needs.

How To Get Funding To Open A Dispensary

When seeking funding to open a dispensary, it’s essential to have a solid business plan and financial projections. This will demonstrate to potential investors and lenders that you have a clear vision for the business and a plan to achieve success.

  • Venture Capital – Venture capital firms provide startup funding in exchange for company equity. Venture capital can be a great funding source if you have a solid business plan and a promising concept.
  • Crowdfunding – Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow you to raise money from a large group of people. Crowdfunding can be a good option if you have a unique concept that resonates with a broad audience.
  • Grants – You can apply for grants from government agencies or nonprofit organizations that support small businesses. The Small Business Administration (SBA) and the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) are two organizations that offer grants to cannabis businesses.
  • Private Investors – Private investors can provide funding in exchange for equity in your dispensary. Look for investors with experience in the cannabis industry and who share your vision for the business. 

It should also be mentioned that, like in other states of America, in North Dakota, cannabis is still labeled a controlled substance at the federal level, restricting access to federally regulated benefits such as banks and loans. Banks can still work with cannabis businesses but must navigate complex legislation, which most won’t do. Under such circumstances, the funding options mentioned earlier are a relief for those seeking funding for their canna-businesses. 


As the market for medical marijuana continues to expand in North Dakota, dispensaries have a unique opportunity to provide patients with safe, high-quality cannabis products. With a focus on customer service, education, and community outreach, dispensaries can attract clients and build a loyal following. By staying up-to-date on the latest research and industry trends, dispensaries can position themselves as trusted partners in the healthcare journey of their customers. 

We hope that by exploring how to open a dispensary in North Dakota, as well as the current state of cannabis dispensaries in the state, their impact on patients, and the potential for future growth in the industry, we could fulfill our goal of providing you with detailed information.