Industry
General
Jun 2022
3 min

Cannabis Business License Application Prep

The cannabis business license application process is the first step in starting a cannabis business. Want to start a business in the cannabis industry and are navigating how to get started with the license application? The license application process can be confusing so if you feel a bit lost, don't fret.  Here we'll cover some of the basics of how to start your cannabis business license application process and provide some resources to help you along in the process to make it a bit easier.

Before you get started with your cannabis business application process there are 3 key preparatory phases that will ensure you're able to move forward with confidence.

  • The first phase of preparing for the cannabis business license application process has to do with gathering basic information.
  • The second phase of preparing for the cannabis business license application process involves creating a structure that will help you organize information, save the piles of documentation that you'll be keeping track of.
  • The third phase of preparing for the cannabis business license application process includes acquiring your operating plans so that they can be prepared ahead of time, ideally, or at the very least be in progress while all the other pieces of the application process are moving along as well.

a blue and purple infographic displaying the three primary pillars of preparing for a cannabis business license application

Gather Key Information About The State's Cannabis Business Licensing Process

  1. First, select the type of company that you want to start, whether that be dispensary, cultivation, or production.
  2. Next, visit the leafsheets states page. Find the state where you would like to apply for a license and click on its box which will have the link(s) to the state's regulatory website for cannabis businesses. At that link, you will find all the rules and regulations that pertain to cannabis in your state. Those rules and regulations will tell you what the requirements are for the cannabis business type that you would like to start. Save these regulations in .pdf format on your desktop if possible.
  3. Then, find the application requirements on the state website and look at the different plans that the application requires. There will usually be an RFA (Request for Application) that will contain all the application requirements.  If there is nothing called an "RFA" look for the section on the state site that references applications.  If it comes down to it and the state site doesn't explicitly describe the application requirements, go to the regulations .pdf that you saved in the previous step and look for the section about "licensing" or "applications." Those sections in the regulations will list out all requirements for the application and licensing process.

Create Organized Structure for Information and Documentation

Before getting started with fulfilling the requirements of the application, make sure you have a structure in place for organizing documentation and keeping track of everything and everyone that you need.

Structure Folders for Storing Application Information

There are so many pieces of information required to apply for a cannabis business license that organization is key, so you don't get too scattered. We recommend the following file structure:

Main Folder
First
, create a Folder called "[STATE NAME] [BUSINESS TYPE] Application [Year]" (ex: New York Dispensary Application 2022)

Sub-Folders
Then
, within that primary folder create the following sub-folders.  These will be empty at first but setting the structure up ahead of time will help you as a lot of pieces move at once, you'll have a way to keep the information organized.  This is a good file structure to start with and then as you progress you may find others that you want to add to fit with the way your brain processes information and likes things organized:

DIY Guides
Here you'll save the Primary DIY Guide and each sheet specific DIY guide.

Sheets in ProgressHere you'll save all your operating plans (sheets) that are being edited.

Sheets Finalized
Here you'll save the finalized versions of your operating plans (sheets).

Regulations
Here you'll save the pdf version of your state's cannabis regulations. Also store any other regulations that pertain to the application (sometimes regulations will specify that you must comply with other specific state regulations)

Architect and Construction
Here keep all construction and architect related materials provided by your building designers.

Property
Here, keep any property related documents like leases, LOIs, site plans, maps, etc.

Financials
Here, keep financial items such as proof of funds, commitment of funds, and financial plan.

Blank Forms
Keep a blank copy of all required forms.

Completed Biz Forms
Here you'll store finalized required forms that have to do with the business.  The forms that have to do with owner information will go in the next folder.

Owner Info
Here you'll keep the info needed for each owner.  
This will be their forms, background check info, bios, resumes, etc. Create a folder for each owner, and put each owner's finished information in their folder.  
You may also want to store your Organizational Chart in this folder.

Expenses
Here keep a copy of all documentation related to money you've spent on the application process

Business Docs
Here, put information that's related to the formation of your entity.
Ex: state business license, articles of incorporation, operating agreement, FEIN etc.

RFA
If the Request For Application (RFA)is currently available
Store a copy of the RFA and any other supporting information that the state supplies.  
Ex: a FAQ document with answers to questions you may have along the way.

     

Data
Here you'll store data and insights that you use as you customize your application.
Ex: industry reports, white papers, consumer trends and other key data points

a purple and blue infographic displaying the folder organization system best used for cannabis business application processes


Make a Checklist of Everything Needed to Complete The Application

At this point, create a checklist of everything that needs to be done. This can be done in a word document, a note taking app like Evernote, excel or any other format that you like to use.  It can even be done using a project management platform like Teamwork where you and your team can make notes on different tasks to keep track of progress made.


This cannabis business application checklist should include (at least)the following:

    
Important Dates
List key dates and deadlines by which certain things must be completed.
Make notes next to each date with the contact info needed or website needed.

Operating Plans
List each plan needed to fulfill the application requirements (include state's title: ex "Exhibit A").  
If there is a page limit assigned to each plan by the state's rules, make note of the page limit.

Business Forms
List each business form that needs to be completed.

Ownership Forms
List each owner's name, and under each of their names, list all the ownership forms.

Property Forms
List each form that is required which related to the property for the business.  
If a signature is required from a 3rd party, make a note of who that  party is on the checklist.

Business Documentation
List the business documentation that's required
Ex: business license, articles of incorporations, etc.

Ownership Documentation
List each owner's name and under each name list the required documentation
Ex: bios, resumes, proof of funds, etc.

Property Documentation
List each piece of property specific documentation needs.
Ex: site plan, lease, map, etc.

Agencies Needed
Make a list of agencies that you need to contact ASAP to get needed signatures and approvals.
Make a note next to each agency about what you need them for.  
Contacting these agencies should be a TOP PRIORITY.

Vendors Needed
Make a list of vendors you'll need to contact during the application process. Include vendors needed to get pieces of the process done, and include vendors you'll need once you get a license and may want mentionin the application. Make a note next to each vendor about what you'll need them for.

                         [Example]
                         Cannabis Business Application Checklist

    
                         IMPORTANT DATES

                        • Application submission window opens
                          (February 22: cannreg.org)

                         • Application submission window closes
                           (April 22: cannreg.org/app)

                         • Application Due
                           (April 22 at 5:00pm EST: cannreg.org/app)

                         • First day to get fingerprinted
                           (30 days prior to application submission)

                         • Last day to get fingerprinted
                           (7 days prior to application submission)

                         • Question submission window
                           (March 15- March 20: cannabis@qanda.com)

                         • Answers to Questions released by state
                           (April 3: CannaQuestions.gov)


                         PLANS

                        • Exhibit A - Security Plan (80 pages)

                        • Exhibit B - Cultivation Plan (100 pages)

                        • Exhibit C - Environmental Plan (25 pages)

                        • Exhibit D - Staffing and Training Plan (30 pages)

                        • Exhibit E - Waste Destruction Plan (15 pages)

                        • Exhibit F - Recall and Withdraw Plan (20 pages)

                        • Exhibit G - Package/Labeling Plan (20 pages)

                        • Exhibit H - Recordkeeping Plan (15 pages)

                        • Exhibit I - Inventory Control Plan (20 pages)


                        
                        FORMS

                       Business Forms
                       ____________________________________   

                         • Business Info Form

                         • Information Release Form

                         • Affidavit

                       Ownership Forms
                       ____________________________________   
                          
                        • Paul

                               + Commitment of Funds

                               + Tax information Release

                               + Fingerprint Release

                        • Olivia

                               + Commitment of Funds

                               + Tax information Release

                               + Fingerprint Release

                        • Ben

                               + Commitment of Funds

                               + Tax information Release

                               + Fingerprint Release

                        • Stella

                               + Commitment of Funds

                               + Tax information Release

                               + Fingerprint Release


                       Property Forms
                       ____________________________________   

                        • Zoning Approval (zoning notary/signature)

                        • Use Approval (landlord notary/ignature)

                        DOCUMENTATION

                       Business Documentation
                       ____________________________________   

                        • State business license

                        • Article of Incorporation

                        • Operating Agreement

                        • Organizational Chart

                        • Proof of Registration with Dept. of Tax

                        • FEIN letter

                       Ownership Documentation
                       _____________________   

                        • Paul

                               + Biography

                               + Resume

                               + Fingerprint Release

                               + Copy of degrees and certifications

                               + Proof of residency

                        • Olivia

                               + Biography

                               + Resume

                               + Fingerprint Release

                               + Copy of degrees and certifications

                               + Proof of residency

                        • Ben

                               + Biography

                               + Resume

                               + Fingerprint Release

                               + Copy of degrees and certifications

                               + Proof of residency

                        • Stella

                               + Biography

                               + Resume

                               + Fingerprint Release

                               + Copy of degrees and certifications

                               + Proof of residency

                       Property Documentation
                       ___________________

                        • Site Plan

                        • Professional Land Survey

                        • Lease

                        AGENCIES

                        • Zoning Authority  (zoning form signature)

                        • Coffeeluv Township (letter of support)

                        • Building & Planning Dept.

                        • Water District (water use approval)

                        • County Commission (special use permit)

                        VENDORS

                       Vendors for Application Completion
                       ___________________________

                        • Land surveyor (land survey)

                        • Construction Firm (construction budget)

                        • Architect (floor plans & site plans)

                        • Real Estate Agent (find location)


                       Vendors for Application Enhancement
                       ____________________________________   

                        • Point of Sale System

                        • IT company

                        • Marketing Firm

                        • Website developer

                        • Brand designer

                        • Interior decorator

                        • Grow supplies company

                       [END OF EXAMPLE CHECKLIST]

an infographic with a pink and purple background displaying the structure for a checklist to use when completing a cannabis business license application


Download All Required Forms

The state will require that all owners fill out forms and do a background check, will require you to provide information about the business, and may have forms that need signature from zoning authorities, community boards, landlords, etc. These forms will be available on the state's cannabis regulatory website (the one you accessed through the leafsheets states page).

Download all required forms to the "Blank Forms" folder on your desktop.

  1. If an owner form, title: "Form-Ownership- [FORM NAME] BLANK"
  2. If a business form, title: "Form-Business- [FORM NAME]-BLANK"
  3. If a property form, title: "Form-Property- [FORM NAME]-BLANK"

Getting Cannabis Business Operating Plans in Order


Selecting The Operating Plans Needed to Fulfill The Application Requirements (If Using a Consultant/Application Writer)

You may have the funding to pay a consultant or application writer to do the plans for you.  If so, they should be taking care of all the operating plans needed.  To ensure you have a good understanding of what the consultant will be helping you with once you move forward in the application prep and assembly process, ask these following key questions to make sure that working with a consultant is really the way you want to go:

  • What are your payment terms?
  • How long will we be working together?
  • Will you be helping me find a location?
  • Will you be advising me on decision making along the way or will you just be writing the operating plans?
  • Have you written operating plans with regulations integrated into them before?
  • Have you read the application requirements for my state?
  • Do I need to hire any additional service providers to help you complete any of the plans (this may be the case for security plana and financial plan)?  If yes, do you have recommended service providers?

*Selecting The Operating Plans Needed to Fulfill The Application Requirements (If NOT Using a Consultant/Application Writer)*

If you're saving some of your startup funding by approaching the application yourself, or with your team, follow these steps for the absolute best practices for success in preparing your operating plans.


5 Steps to Selecting Cannabis Business Operating Plans for The Application

#1. Once, you know, the plans required in that state to start the business type that you want to start visit the leafsheets "sheets" page.  Select the business type you're applying for.

#2. Compare the list of plans that the application requirements ask for (ex: security plan, inventory control, recordkeeping, recall and withdrawal, etc.) and select each document that you need.

#3. Once you check out, all your sheets (cannabis business operations plans) will be e-mailed to you immediately. Download all your sheets to your desktop. If you don't have pdf editing capabilities, email us at high@leafsheets.com and we'll send you the .doc versions.

#4. Download the "Primary DIY Guide."  You'll find this guide on all the product pages (image below).  You only need to download this Primary DIY Guide once (if it downloads with any images cut off, email us at high@leafsheets.com and we'll email you the pdf directly).  The Primary DIY Guide will teach you how to customize your cannabis business operations plans (SOPs) for your state and your business.

#5. Go to the leafsheets, "guides" page, where you will find a do it yourself (DIY) customization guide for each sheet that you purchased to meet the requirements of your state cannabis business licensing process. These guides give you tips for how to specifically navigate each individual sheet during your customization process.

Start Customizing Your Cannabis Business Operations Plans

Now, you'll start your customization process to edit the sheets to specifically follow your state's rules and regulations, and to add your special twist for your business's unique way of doing things.  If you don't yet have unique ways of doing things, then you can simply edit the sheets to incorporate the state regulations and you're good to go.

3 Steps to Customizing Your Cannabis Business Operating Plans for The Application

#1. Use your Primary DIY guide throughout the editing process and will utilize each sheet's specific DIY customization guide when editing the individual sheets (ex: use the dispensary security plan DIY guide when editing the dispensary security plan). First go through the Primary DIY Guide as it will walk you through how to navigate your state's regulations and how to organize the information into topics, so you know which rules you need for which sheets.

#2. Once you've followed the steps in the Primary DIY Guide and have the rules organized into categories, being your individual sheet editing process.  Use the Primary DIY Guide in coordination with each sheet's specific DIY customization guide.

#3. Once you finish customizing each sheet, take at least a few days away from the sheets and then revisit them for final review and editing.  Make them sparkle!


- Tip about customizing your sheets -

It's better to be OVER THE TOP with incorporating and citing the rules, so don't be worried about being a try hard.


- Note on Third Party Sheet (Operating Plan) Review -
Leafsheets is not a legal firm. Therefore, we do advise that you have your documents reviewed by an attorney. If that's not possible, just make sure that you put in the absolute, most dedicated work when you do the customization process.

Key Resources for a Successful Cannabis Business License Application

Get your cannabis business operating plans here

See the Primary DIY Guide Here

What's Next?

Next up, you'll dive into the rest of the cannabis business license application and startup prep process. We'll cover everything involved in this next step in another article dedicated solely to successfully navigating the application process all the way up until the due date.

Conclusion

The cannabis business licensing application process is arduous.  Many entrepreneurs get overly excited and jump in before preparing properly.  After years of experience with this process we can assure you that approaching the application process with a structure and method in place will make your life SO MUCH easier and will increase your chance of success.

We wish you the best of success in your cannabis business venture. And we're always here to help every step of the way, make sure that you follow leaf sheets on all social media platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok to stay up to date with the additional cannabis business support products and services that we are developing over time to empower your greatest success, your business scaling, and your cannabis industry leadership. Please reach out to us if there's any way that we can help high@leafsheets.com also make sure.

About Leafsheets

Leafsheets is a cannabis business support and acceleration platform that is breaking the barriers to entry and success in cannabis business by simplifying cannabis entrepreneurship.  Leafsheets provides vital operating plans, business information, and answers to the most pressing questions --- all of which are usually hard to access and require spending tens of thousands of dollars on consultants.  Not anymore!  Get everything you need to be 10 steps ahead.

Leafsheets is an experienced business advisor and not a legal advisor. For legal advice, consult with a licensed legal practitioner in your state.

Get Started Now

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