The difficulty of opening a marijuana dispensary varies according to the laws of each locality, but it is generally considered a difficult and risky business venture. In addition to compliance with strict state and local laws, dispensaries face the added challenge of still being illegal under federal law.
Dispensaries can only be opened in localities that allow the sale of medical or recreational marijuana. States that only allow medical marijuana sales require dispensaries to verify that customers have a valid medical ID. Sale and possession limits must also be strictly observed. If a dispensary violates these rules, even unintentionally, they can be subject to prosecution under tough state drug sale laws.
Even if a dispensary carefully observes all state laws and regulations, it is still subject to prosecution by the federal government at any time. While the federal government has largely respected state marijuana laws, there is no guarantee that a dispensary will be free from federal scrutiny or prosecution.
Dispensaries also face operating costs that may be higher than those of comparable businesses. Increased security is necessary due to both the nature of the product and large amounts of cash being handled and transported. Dispensaries must also take care to blend into a neighborhood, keeping their storefront and grounds clean and in good repair to avoid a raid triggered by a neighbor complaint.