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How to Start a Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Iowa

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In Iowa, the Medical Cannabidiol Act was enacted in May 2017 which directed the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) to administer the medical marijuana program in the state. The law authorized IDPH to license up to five medical cannabidiol dispensaries.

The five licenses were granted in June 2018. However, just recently, two medical marijuana dispensaries licenses became available as two stores closed. So on April 17, 2020, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued by IDPH to solicit applications to award 2 new dispensary licenses to applicants.

If you’re serious about starting a marijuana business in Iowa you should check out the How To Get Started In The Medical or Recreational Marijuana Industry package to understand everything you need to know and do, from start to finish, to make this a reality.

Here’s a quick and simple guide to help you start a marijuana dispensary in Iowa.

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Setup Your Marijuana Business Corporate Structure

You need to form your cannabis company entity (corporation, LLC, partnership, etc) and register to do business with the Secretary of State Office in Iowa.

Find a Compliant Location

You’ll need to find a compliant business location that meets the state, county, and city zoning regulations. This is one of the few and biggest make-or-break items that will directly impact whether you will get licensed, so take your time and ensure you get this right the first time or prepare for massive headaches later on if your location falls through or isn’t compliant.

Create a Marijuana Dispensary Business Plan

You will be required to include in your application a dispensary business plan that addresses the following items (our business plans includes all of them):

  • Timeframes and costs
  • Proposed hours of operation
  • Business Continuity Plan
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Market Analysis
  • Estimated monthly revenues and expenses for the first 2 years
  • Pricing
  • Financial Plan

Dispensary Licensing Application

Here is a summary of the dispensary license application process in Iowa:

Step 1

Complete the registration process in

Step 2

Submit Letter of Intent to Apply through the pre-application process in The deadline for submission is May 4, 2020.

Step 3

Prepare Final Application. Only applicants that submit a pre-application/intent to apply by the identified deadline will be notified to submit a final application. Here are some of the plans you’ll need for the final application:

Step 4

Final Application must be submitted on or before June 8, 2020, at 4 pm local Iowa time.

Step 5

Submit an application fee of $5,000 which must be received no later than June 19, 2020.

Install Operations Infrastructure

Now that you’ve submitted your marijuana dispensary/retail storefront applications, once your license(s) have been issued, it’s now time to start hiring people, buying equipment, and setting up your internal dispensary operation plans and procedures to ensure legal compliance and smooth operation.

Market Your Marijuana Dispensary

Your dispensary lives or dies based on how well you market it to the public. There are some major pitfalls and hurdles you’ll have to overcome to do this legally and effectively. Marijuana businesses no longer sell themselves, so you’ll need to ensure you’ve got a great Marijuana Dispensary Marketing & Advertising Plan in place to ensure the businesses’ success.

Pay Taxes & Renew Your Licenses

Pay all applicable taxes and be sure to renew your dispensary license annually. A renewal application must be submitted at least six months before the license expires.

The Iowa Department of Public Health shall assess the fee with the notice of approval of license renewal each year on August 1, payable by the dispensary to the department no later than December 1.

That’s it! Hope you find this article helpful and will give you a good opportunity of opening a successful dispensary.

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