How to Open a Dispensary in Georgia

Interested in starting a Cannabis business in Georgia?

How to Open a Dispensary in Georgia in 2024

To open a medical marijuana dispensary in Georgia, you need to obtain the requisite license. A complete application for a Georgia dispensing license must contain all the information and documents requested by the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission. Where necessary, prospective cannabis dispensary owners can obtain funding for various costs associated with starting retail marijuana dispensaries in the state. Before commencing operations, cannabis entrepreneurs must have concrete business plans to ensure the success of their cannabis dispensaries. While Georgia marijuana law does not mandate insuring a marijuana dispensary, dispensary owners should insure their businesses to protect against unforeseen losses.

Why Open a Dispensary in Georgia?

Although legal sales of low-THC oil in Georgia began in April 2023, there are over 27,000 registered low-THC oil patients, and it is estimated that revenue from sales of low-THC oil could reach $90m within its first year. In Georgia, the number of patients registered with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) determines the number of dispensaries that can be licensed. The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission (GMCC) approves additional dispensary licenses for every 10,000 patients registered.

The GMCC asserts in its 2023 annual report that the number of patients registered in the state’s low-THC oil Registry grew from 20,000 in 2021 to over 25,000 in 2023, indicating a 20% increase. These numbers have since increased, suggesting that qualifying residents are willing to participate in the program. This indicates an increasing demand for low-THC oils in Georgia. Interested individuals or entities can take advantage of this rapidly expanding industry by applying for cannabis dispensary licenses at the call of the GMCC.

Types of Dispensary Licenses in Georgia

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission issues only one type of cannabis dispensary license - a dispensing license. A dispensing licensee can purchase medical cannabis from licensed producer facilities and dispense low-THC oil to patients registered in the state’s low-THC oil program.

How to Get a Georgia Dispensary License

  • Print and fill out the Dispensing License Application Form
  • Include supporting documents such as valid government-issued identifications, business permits
  • Pay the application fees - the fees are payable by business checks only
  • Mail the completed application form and supporting documents to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission at:

7 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Suite 146 Atlanta, GA 30334

To qualify for a Georgia dispensary license, applicants must hold a Class 1 or Class 2 production license. The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission is responsible for receiving and reviewing dispensary applications and awarding licenses to qualified applicants. Applications for dispensing licenses are only open during a predetermined period, as announced by the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission. Currently, the state is not issuing additional dispensing licenses.

Information and Documents Required for a Dispensary License in Georgia

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission requires intending businesses to provide the following as listed in the Dispensing License Application Form when applying for dispensary licenses in Georgia:

  • Affidavit of verification
  • General information
  • Criminal history
  • Owners information page - Listing each owner controlling 5% or more
  • Affidavit of lawful presence
  • Secure and verifiable document - government-issued identification
  • Fingerprint
  • E-Verify affidavit
  • Tax compliance document
  • Facility information
  • Plans including site, employment, dispensing, business operations, security, and seed-to-sale tracking plans
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Application fees

In addition to the required documents, prospective licensees must pay the dispensing license fee. The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission will not process a dispensary license application until all information is received.

What Plans Do You Need to Open a Dispensary in Georgia?

Business plans serve as roadmaps for cannabis dispensary’s growth. Persons intending to incorporate low-THC dispensaries in Georgia must have business plans that examine all factors that constitute their business models, from strategies to manufacturing and sales. An ideal Georgia low-THC dispensary plan should have the following elements:

  • Executive Summary, including company overview, vision and mission statements, business location, owners, description of the cannabis products being offered, and financial highlights
  • Company Overview, including detailed information about the low-THC dispensary, such as value proposition, market opportunity, who the business serves, business compliance with Georgia laws, and plans for the business
  • Market Analysis, which should include information about trends and competition and identifying potential market size. Pricing strategy must be determined and indicated based on market analysis
  • Marketing Strategy, including how to reach your targeted customers in the most cost-effective manner
  • Compliance and Security Plan encompassing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), organizational structure, cannabis dispensary’s layout, premises security, inventory security, inventory management systems, and security equipment requirements
  • Financial Analysis, including expected revenue, estimating start-up and recurrent costs, and evaluating profitability

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission requires prospective dispensary owners to submit site and operating plans when applying for dispensing licenses. The site plan must include:

  • Design and floor plans, including restricted areas, patient consultation rooms, point of sales, and entrances and exits
  • Secured delivery area
  • Parking
  • Equipment required for security and storage

The operating plan must include:

  • Detailed security measures to secure the transportation, delivery, and tracking of marijuana products
  • Chain of custody of marijuana products
  • Access control systems
  • Theft and loss prevention
  • Training protocols
  • Security surveillance systems

Are There Municipal Requirements for Opening a Cannabis Dispensary in Georgia?

Cities and counties in Georgia cannot restrict low-THC oil business operations, including low-THC dispensaries, within their borders. However, prospective low-THC oil dispensary owners must obtain the requisite state license before operating in any municipality in the state.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Georgia Dispensary License?

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission does not specify how long it takes to get a Georgia low-THC dispensary license. However, applications for dispensing licenses must be submitted during an open application period announced by the Commission.

Where Can You Locate a Cannabis Dispensary in Georgia?

Low-THC dispensaries must be located in retail sales locations within Georgia. Prospective low-THC oil dispensary operators cannot situate their dispensaries in the following places:

  • Within a 1,000-foot radius of an early care education program, public or private school, church, or other religious places of worship
  • In close proximity to other existing low-THC oil dispensaries

Can Licensees Have More Than One Dispensary Location in Georgia?

Yes. Dispensing license holders may have more than one low-THC oil dispensary location in Georgia. State law permits dispensary license holders to have up to six dispensing facilities within the state.

How Much Does It Cost to Open a Marijuana Dispensary in Georgia?

There are various costs associated with opening and operating low-THC oil dispensaries in Georgia, including licensing fees, real estate costs, inventory, operational costs, and human capital costs.

Licensing Costs

The various fees associated with low-THC oil dispensing license in Georgia are listed below:

  • Application fee - $5,000
  • Tier 1 County dispensing license fee - $15,000
  • Tier 2 County dispensing license fee - $20,000
  • Tier 3 County dispensing license fee - $25,000
  • Tier 4 County -dispensing license fee - $30,000

Real Estate Costs

These include the initial and subsequent years' rental costs and renovation costs. The average rental for high-traffic locations in Georgia can be as high as $100,000 annually, while remodeling can set you back up to $30,000.

Inventory Costs

The cost of the actual cannabis products on shelves at the dispensary varies depending on the stock and the size of the dispensary.

Operational Costs

The day-to-day business operating expenses are covered under operational costs. Business equipment such as barcode readers, dispensary scales, and cannabis POS systems can cost up to $25,000. Also, having an attorney retainer can cost up to $50,000 annually. Other costs, such as advertising and surveillance, can be as high as $75,000 yearly.

Human Capital Costs

This is the cost of hiring and training dispensary employees. The annual salary of dispensary managers in Georgia is up to $52,000, while entry-level dispensary staffers earn up to $23,000 yearly.

Do You Need an Insurance Policy for a Cannabis Dispensary in Georgia?

Presently, there are no specific laws mandating low-THC oil dispensary owners in Georgia to carry insurance policies. However, it is recommended that dispensaries have insurance coverage to protect their businesses from financial loss that may arise from threats like theft or natural disasters. Insurance policies recommended for low-THC oil dispensaries in Georgia include:

  • General Liability Insurance: It provides insurance for unintentional third-party bodily injuries or property damages that took place within the dispensary premises
  • Product Liability Insurance: It helps insure dispensary owners against product liability claims. It provides funds for legal fees and settlement during litigation for injuries or damages caused by the use of products purchased from a dispensary
  • Commercial Property Insurance: It protects the value of the dispensary property and reimburses dispensary owners for direct property losses, including those caused by natural disasters, fire, explosion, or vandalism
  • Crime Insurance: Because dispensaries sell products and accept cash payments, they are prone to theft, burglaries, and robberies. Crime insurance helps reimburse the dispensary losses in the event of such occurrences
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Workers compensation insurance provides financial and medical benefits to employees who get injured or fall ill in the course of doing their jobs

The amount low-THC oil dispensaries in Georgia pay for insurance coverage will vary based on many factors, including the following:

  • The type of coverage
  • The policy limits
  • The physical location of the dispensary
  • The size of the dispensary

How to Get a Grant to Open a Dispensary in Georgia

Funding from United States commercial banks is largely unavailable to entrepreneurs in the cannabis business. However, cannabis entrepreneurs in Georgia have the following options to source for funding to establish their dispensaries:

  • Self-Funding: Funding that comes from personal savings
  • Family and Friends: Cannabis entrepreneurs can seek funding from friends and families. The upside is that the loan comes with fewer restrictions
  • Loans: It is taking out personal or business loans from individuals or loan companies. The ease of accessing such loans is largely determined by the borrower's credit score
  • Equity Funding: Cannabis entrepreneurs can exchange shares in their dispensary businesses for capital
  • Brokers: Potential low-THC oil dispensary owners in Georgia can secure funding from brokers specializing in the cannabis industry. These brokers locate and negotiate with investors looking to invest in the marijuana business

Does Georgia Have a Social Equity Program for Cannabis Dispensaries?

No, there is no Social Equity Program for low-THC oil dispensaries in Georgia.

Does Georgia Tax Marijuana Dispensaries?

Yes. Per Section 16-12-226 of House Bill 324, known as the Georgia's Hope Act, low-THC dispensaries in the state must pay all applicable sales and use taxes. The Georgia Department of Revenue collects these taxes and sets the state's sales and use tax at 4%. However, depending on the jurisdiction where the dispensary is located, sales and use tax can get as high as 9%.

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