Dec 2022
3 min

Cannabis Business Startup Prep [Checklist]

When you're ready to start a new cannabis business, it can be easy to get lost in all of the planning. But if you don't establish and consider some key things early on, you could end up tripping over them later.

This list is based on years of industry experience and business consulting, and it's here in hopes that it will help you in your startup process.

Use this list throughout your process, and you'll find that many of the tripwires that could cause problems for your business are eliminated before they even come up.


It takes a village.  There are key collaborators that will help get your cannabis business off the ground, including vendors, agencies, and internal partners. Outlining who you'll need along the way, figuring out which individuals and entities will fill each position, and having a concept of when you will need each collaborator will serve you well.

A diverse team of business owners having a meeting about starting a cannabis business

Key Professional Partners

The first step in getting started with your cannabis business is to find the right professionals. There are some key professionals considered to be necessary in licensing and then also in operating a cannabis cultivation facility, production facility and/or dispensary. Having the right professionals on your side can make all the difference in getting each task done as efficiently as possible.  

Finding the right professional service providers early on will save you from having a constant search for service providers throughout your process.  Even though you may not hire every service provider right when you find them it's good to establish the relationships early on so that as you need each service, it's easy to sign up with the providers once you hit a point where you need them.

You want to find professionals who have experience with cannabis businesses so that they can offer guidance on how best to approach each of these processes.  Some of these key service providers include:

  • Operating Plan Provider (obviously we suggest you use leafsheets!)
  • Accountant/CPA
  • Legal Counsel
  • Government Affairs Firm or Lobbyist (not required, but helpful when you can afford it!)
  • Architect
  • General Contractor
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Bank

Advisory Board

Having an advisory board can be immensely helpful in winning a cannabis business license, and in creating a successful operation.  The advisory board should be made up of a group of professionals who have varied skills which relate to the core needs of your business.  These can be people you already know, or experienced industry professionals who you admire and develop a relationship with.  Your advisory board can help as you make key decisions in the startup process and in scaling your company once you get going. Often the credibility of the advisory board serves cannabis business owners well as they apply for licensure and raise capital.

Your advisory board will not only help you with getting started, but also as you grow your business. Advisory boards provide advice on areas such as accounting, operations management, marketing strategies, human resources management and legal counsel so that entrepreneurs do not have to learn everything on their own. They are also helpful in providing support during difficult times when things may not be going according to plan and when entrepreneurs need advice on how best to handle these situations without letting them overwhelm them.

It's important that members of your advisory board are engaged in their roles and willing to put forth good faith efforts into helping your company succeed. Some key skills to look for when assembling the advisory board include:

  • Environmental Protection
  • Security (Physical & Cyber)
  • Loss prevention/Asset tracking
  • Medical (Pharmacist, Doctor)
  • Quality Control
  • Finance
  • Agriculture
  • Business Law
  • Business Operations and Ownership
  • Cannabis Business

Key Agencies

In the licensing, build out and operations of cannabis businesses there are some key agencies which the business must cooperate with in order to successfully acquire a license to operate and in order to maintain compliance with state regulations.  Many of these agencies will be responsible for regulating certain activities that are core to getting your business approved for operation.  It's best to identify the official agencies and establish relationships with the agencies so that you and your team know who to contact for what questions, scheduling and submissions. Some of these agencies include:

  • State Cannabis Regulatory authority
  • Local municipality (city, town, or county)
  • Zoning and land use authority
  • Fire Department
  • Waste Removal
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • Department of Food and Agriculture
  • Department of Public Health
  • Water Authority
  • Energy Provider
A diverse roup of co-workers strategizing for cannabis business growth

Notable Operational Costs

When preparing the financial plan and business plan for a cannabis business, there are key expenses and services to consider.  Establishing the providers of these products and services ahead of time will help you create a more accurate financial model and help have a more complete strategy.  Here's what we mean:

Equipment and Services

Service providers and equipment make up most of a cannabis business's recurring monthly expenses.  Your team will interact with these vendors and utilize these materials on a daily basis.  Ensure that you lock in the best providers ahead of time so that maintaining the relationships with these companies over time is fruitful and consistent.

Your team will be working with vendors and ordering materials on a daily basis, so it's important to ensure that everyone is working with quality suppliers.  In order to do this, you should:

  • Check out their social media presence and online reviews to see if they have positive interactions with other customers or if they have received any negative reviews or comments about their service or products.
  • Contact them directly by phone or email, if possible, to ask questions about their products or services (this can also be done via social media).  If you're having trouble finding information about them online, try calling them directly and asking them if they have any other business information available such as an address or website address where customers can find more information about them?
  • If possible, request samples from several different suppliers before making your final decision on which one will be best suited for your needs!
  • If possible, speak with some other cannabis business operators who have worked with the service or product provider and ask them how their experience has been.

Security Equipment

  • Camera System
  • Silent & Audible alarm system with automatic notification capabilities
  • Exterior and Internal access restriction (frequency operated button access to facility areas)
  • Fencing
  • Guard shack
  • Vault
  • Safe
  • Exterior lighting
  • Monitoring screens
  • Panic buttons


Your packaging should be:

  • Tamper evident
  • Air-tight
  • Recyclable
  • Free of harmful chemicals
  • Room for informational labeling

Production Materials Supplier

  • Ingredients
  • Solvents
  • Tools (ex: beakers, syringes, metal tongs, measuring cups, etc.)

Grow Materials Supplier

  • Nutrients
  • Soil/Base
  • Tools (ex: pots, cure containers, grow tables, bags, bins, trim accessories, etc.)

bright and colorful gardening equipment

Cultivation Equipment

  • Fertigation system
  • Packaging machine
  • Trim machine
  • Environment regulation system / HV/AC
  • Reverse Osmosis system
  • Closed Circuit Desalinization System*
  • Solar/Geothermal/Wind Energy* (if using alternative energy sources)
  • Transportation vehicle(s)
  • Lighting (Dependent upon grow method and facility type)
  • Computers
  • Label Printers
  • RFID Scanners
  • Cash Safe
  • General FF&E (Office furniture, shelving, tables, etc)
  • Waste bins
  • Waste grinder
  • Waste safe
  • Storage
  • NTEP scale

Production Equipment

  • Extraction Machines
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Transportation vehicles
  • Packaging machine
  • HV/AC
  • Solvents
  • Computers
  • Label Printers (sometimes a coupel of types for different sized labels, ex: barcode labels and product information labels)
  • RFID Scanners
  • Cash Safe
  • General FF&E (Office furniture, shelving, tables, etc)
  • Waste bins
  • Waste grinder
  • Waste safe
  • Storage
  • NTEP scale

Dispensary Equipment

  • Cash Safe
  • Cash drawers
  • Bar code scanners
  • Label printers
  • Delivery vehicles
  • Waste safe
  • Display cases
  • Display containers
  • NTEP scale

a woman writing a start a cannabis business to do list


  • Computers
  • Tablets
  • Label Printers
  • Document Shredders
  • Bar Code Scanners
  • RFID Scanners (cultivation & production)
  • Printers
  • Document scanner
  • Age verification system (dispensary)

Information Technology

  • Firewall
  • Point of Sale
  • Inventory Control System
  • Record Keeping Software or Platform
  • Record Storage Software of Platform
  • Server or Cloud based cyber security
  • Camera Software
  • Frequency Operated Button Software
  • Company e-mail server (Suggested Microsoft Office 365)
  • Customer Relationship Management platform
  • Payment processing

Personal Protective Equipment supplier (cultivation & production)

  • Gloves
  • Facemasks/ Respirators
  • Scrubs
  • Hairnets
  • Beard nets
  • Goggles
  • Booties or Crocs

Sanitation Products

  • Windex
  • Bleach
  • Ph Strips
  • Mops
  • Mop buckets
  • Brooms
  • Dust pan
  • Rags
  • Vaccuum
  • Clorox Wipes
  • Spray bottles
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Dish soap
  • Hand soap
  • Sponges

General Supplies

  • Pens
  • Sharpies
  • Highliters
  • Printer ink
  • Labels
  • Printer paper
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Note pads
  • Clip boards
  • Lanyards
  • Post it notes
  • Calculators
a fun group of cannabis employees with colorful hair and smiling faces


Many operators phone it in when they do their recruitment and hiring process. They take people at their word and require basic experience. This is a mistake, because designing a specific hiring and on boarding process is crucial for decreasing your turnover rate in the long run by ensuring you have a team that is ready to perform and is dedicated to working toward the vision of your business.

A good hiring process ensures that the candidate has the skillset needed to complete the job description, while also making sure they have the right personality fit with your company culture.

When you're recruiting new employees, focus on finding people who are passionate about what they do and can be motivated by more than just money.  The best candidates will be able to demonstrate why they love their field of expertise, what it means to them personally, and how they plan on utilizing their skills in this role at your company.

  • Grow Team
  • Production Team
  • Dispensary Agents
  • Administrative
  • Human Resources
  • Executives
  • Sales + Marketing (may be outsourced)
  • Security (may be outsourced)
  • Accounting (May be outsourced)

Facility Build Out

When you're starting a cannabis business, it's tempting to try to cut corners when it comes to building your facility. After all, who doesn't want to save money? But if you're going to be operating legally, you really can't afford to do that.

When it comes to building and designing your facility, you need the best cannabis facility experienced service providers that you can afford because having a well-constructed facility sets the foundation for successful and compliant operations. Unfortunately, faulty construction is one of the main issues that holds new cannabis operators from being able to get their doors open.  Avoid that hassle by working with the best!

  • Facility Design (Architect)
  • Interior Decorator (dispensary)
  • Mechanical, Plumbing + Electrical Design
  • Construction + General Contractor
  • Building approvals and inspections

Branding & Marketing

Saving the best for last! Once you have all of your business foundation set, you can focus on the fun stuff!  Though it’s on the creative side it is VITAL to your business.  Having a well developed brand, online presence, and a strategy for consistently reaching your customers and potential customers is paramount to building the brand awareness and customer relationships that will make your business grow. Some of these can be done in-house or outsourced to an agency depending on your budget. Don't take these things lightly! Branding and marketing are key to differentiating business from competitors.

  • Brand design
  • Website design
  • Public relations (optional depending on budget)
  • Advertising planning
  • Marketing strategy
  • Media design and social planning (Use Canva if doing this in-house)
  • Swag
a brand collage pinned to a cor board with colorful push pins


You're off to a great start!

We suggest making a spread sheet with each needed agency, collaborator, and service provider listed and then filling in the contact information (email, phone, contact name, company name, website) for each provider as you make your selections.  This will make it s simple for your whole team to know who to contact for what during your startup process, operations and maintenance.

Once you've decided on the basics like this, you can move on to the fun parts like getting everything done to get your doors open!


Find Required Documents

Dispensary Operating Plans

Cultivation operating Plans

Processing Operating Plans

Employee Agreements, Forms, and Handbook


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 by providing vital operating plans, business information, and answers to the most pressing questions. **Leafsheets is an experienced business advisor and not a legal advisor. For legal advice, consult with a licensed legal practitioner in your state.

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