How to Open a Dispensary in Maine

How to open a dispensary in maine

Are you thinking about opening a recreational dispensary in Maine? Congratulations!

Maine officially voted to legalize adult-use cannabis use and sales in 2016 with the Marijuana Legalization Act (MLA), but the rules of how the program would be governed weren’t approved until 2019. Recreational dispensary sales didn’t start until 2020.

All things considered, the recreational cannabis industry is still quite new in Maine, which means it’s a great time to open a dispensary.

This guide is designed to help prospective cannabis entrepreneurs understand exactly how to open a dispensary, including key details like licensing, financing, real estate, security, staffing, compliance, inventory, tech stack, and more.

Keep scrolling for a step-by-step process for getting a dispensary open in Maine, or use the links on the left to skip directly to what you need.

Before you start, take a moment to review Maine’s cannabis laws. It’s imperative that current and prospective dispensary business owners know and understand the rules.

Learn more about ME cannabis

Guide to Maine Cannabis Laws

Disclaimer: Always consult your lawyer, accountant, realtor, or other trusted consultants to help you navigate the complexities of opening a cannabis dispensary. The information provided herein is designed to illustrate and educate, but is not to be construed as legal or financial advice.

Plan your Maine cannabis business

The first step of your dispensary ownership plan is to get your business affairs in order. This is where you understand your state’s cannabis laws, create your formal business entity, and prepare to submit your application.

The cannabis regulatory body in Maine is the Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP). The OCP (formerly called the OMP - Office of Marijuana Policy) oversees and regulates licensees that operate in Maine’s recreational marijuana market, as well as the existing Medical Use of Marijuana Program.

Here are the key elements to planning your dispensary business:

Form a business entity

If you don’t yet have a business formed with the state, that’s your first step. Work with an accountant and/or lawyer to ensure accuracy, but at a minimum, you will need to decide on and create your business structure with the state of Maine.

Then you will get tax ID numbers for the business, open a business bank account at a cannabis-friendly bank or credit union, register for Maine sales & use tax and/or income tax withholding, and consider buying business insurance.

Can dispensaries use banks?

Note: Every city, county, and state is different. You may have additional steps for taxes, licenses, or fees based on your business type and location.

Write a business plan

Cannabis is a complicated industry, with more compliance and legal challenges than typical businesses encounter. Having a rock-solid business plan can help you plan for the current state, as well as the future.

A good business plan for ME dispensaries should include:

  • The physical location of your dispensary

  • Funding plan, or where your startup and ongoing capital will come from

  • Sourcing plan for procuring your cannabis products

  • Revenue and cost projections

  • Staffing plan, or who you’ll hire for what roles and your dispensary org chart

  • Diversity and equity plans

  • Marketing plan

  • Safety and security plan

  • Technology plan, including which cannabis point of sale and compliance software you’ll use to manage your dispensary

  • Proposed timeline for achieving operation of the dispensary, including projected dates for all activities, including renovation, hiring of staff, installing security systems, and other key milestones

  • Any other relevant information you want to document

Find a location

Your dispensary location is a critical piece of the puzzle, but not an easy one. You’ll need something in a visible location, with ample parking, and enough space.

Every state has specific regulations about where dispensaries can be located. In Maine, your dispensary must not be located within 1,000 feet of an existing school, or near a safe zone, which is a municipality-designated area that is frequented by minors.

Your location also needs to be in a municipality that accepts cannabis businesses. Municipalities in Maine are required to opt-in to the adult-use program in order to get permission to operate cannabis businesses in their communities. See the full list of municipalities and their opt-in status.

You will need to have a location chosen in order to receive an active dispensary license in Maine. You also will need the municipality’s approval.

Dispensary Facility Plan

To obtain an active license, a conditional licensee in Maine must submit a Dispensary Facility Plan that provides detailed information for compliance with various regulations. Here is the link to the Plan of Record form.

Dispensary Facility Plans must include the following:

  • Confirmation of the accuracy of the operating and cultivation plans submitted for conditional licensure, with updates if applicable.

  • A table of contents or index for easy reference to each required element in the facility plan.

  • Location of the establishment within the municipality and its proximity to schools, demonstrated by a tax map.

  • Detailed facility size and layout, including limited access areas, display areas, commercial kitchen areas, sample receiving areas, and points of entry.

  • Proof of ownership of the premises or consent from the owner for its intended use.

  • Legal ingress from the closest maintained public way.

  • Examples of visitor identification badges and visitor entry logs in compliance with the Department's requirements.

  • Identification of all security measures required in Section 3.3 and a written security plan.

  • Indication of authorized activities during business hours.

  • For cannabis store licensees, details on retail hours, curbside pickup, facility layout, age-restricted areas, and electrical equipment.

Note: Applicants may clearly mark any trade secrets or privileged information to safeguard them from public disclosure under the Maine Freedom of Access Act.

Tips for finding dispensary real estate:

Find a local real estate professional who specializes in cannabis real estate to help in your search. And use the public resources available to you, like city zoning and administration offices.

When looking for a location for your dispensary, focus on spaces that are:

  • in alignment with your business plan

  • large enough to meet your needs

  • in an appropriate location to serve foot traffic with ample parking

  • able to scale as you grow or expand

  • within your budget

Also, factor in how much it’ll take to renovate or retrofit the space for your business needs. Finally, look at local competition (both existing and planned).

There are many factors that go into finding the perfect location for your dispensary. Take the time necessary to secure the best possible space to help ensure your success.

Secure funding

Now that you have a plan for your cannabis business, you can start to build a more clear budget for your new dispensary.

Your startup business expenses will generally fit into these categories:

  • Real estate and build-out - consider both set-up costs and ongoing rent or mortgage expenses. You’ll probably also have initial renovation expenses.

  • Licensing/application fees - the cost of getting your license in the state of Maine. Also factor in the cost of annual license renewals.

  • Operational costs - the day-to-day expenses including utilities, business or professional fees, marketing, etc.

  • Hardware, software, security, and other tech - many of these are monthly or annual subscriptions.

  • Staffing costs - the cost of hiring employees, including salaries, benefits, taxes, etc.

  • Inventory and product costs - or the actual expense of sourcing and purchasing your cannabis products.

  • Taxes - cannabis businesses are heavily taxed and can’t participate in normal business write-offs like 280E, so plan ahead for your quarterly tax payments. Note! Maine is unique in that they allow state-level business tax deductions that are prohibited under federal 280E code.

Where will all that money come from? As a cannabis business owner, you have a few options for funding:

  • Self-funding - it’s easiest to open a dispensary if you already have capital from savings or other legal means.

  • Friends and family - another easy way to meet dispensary capital requirements is through loans or investment from family and/or friends.

  • Partners - many cannabis businesses are partnerships, where each partner contributes something meaningful. If you have the dream, vision, and want to be the active owner, consider finding a financial partner to help with the costs. Just know that no person or entity having direct or indirect control shall be granted, or hold, more than three licenses in a particular class.

  • Loans - depending on your personal financial situation, you may be eligible for a personal loan for the upfront costs of opening a dispensary. You may also be able to secure a dispensary business loan, but be honest with your lender in how the funds will be used; not all financial institutions will work with cannabis businesses.

  • State programs - Grow Maine is a program established by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) to support small businesses with funding options.

  • Private funds - whether it’s private equity, angel investors, or venture capital, you may have to look to outside investors to fund your cannabis business. This option will decrease your ownership stake in your company.

  • Crowdfunding - another less-popular, but viable, option is to look to the general population to support your business venture.

  • Brokers - cannabis-specific brokerage companies can help you find funding for startup expenses, equipment, and more. FundCanna is one option that serves Maine dispensary businesses.

What does it cost to open a dispensary in Maine?

Most sources suggest having between $250,000 – $1 million to open a dispensary in Maine. But that’s not all that helpful. Here’s a formula to give a sense of what to expect. Come back and fill in the details as you know your unique estimates.

Note: This estimate is for a standard business and is based on a single recreational dispensary.

Application and licensing fees in Maine = $2,750

  • Application fee = $250
    • The one-time, non-refundable application fee is due upon submission of application for a conditional license.

  • License fee = $2,500
    • This fee is due upon approval of an active license.

  • Annual renewal fee for dispensaries = $2,500

Note: The annual fee for a cannabis retailer varies, depending on the municipality, but it will not exceed $2,500.

Real estate fees = $125,000

  • Includes annual rent or mortgage premiums, plus upfront design costs

  • Could be higher in more expensive cities, like Portland, or for larger remodels.

  • Plan for high costs up-front, but will stabilize over time.

Employee salaries = $300,000

Your store size and operating procedures will determine your staffing needs, but plan for around six employees to start, including a manager, several budtenders, and an inventory specialist. This figure includes an average of $20/hour, plus overtime, benefits, etc.

Professional fees and services = $50,000

This may decrease in future years, but to start, expect to pay for legal, financial, insurance, and other professional consulting fees to get your business started.

Security, hardware, and software = $50,000

This covers all network, security, hardware, and software for your business, including computers, TVs, printers, scanners, internet, and other software like POS, ecommerce, payments, etc.

After your initial investment, plan for at least $2,000 per month in recurring software expenses.

Marketing expenses = $100,000

Perhaps the most variable of your costs when opening a cannabis business, this factors in one full-time marketing staff person (or agency costs per year), plus costs for your website, ads, printing, etc. to promote the dispensary.

Cannabis products = $1,500 per pound

Your cost of products for opening day (plus ongoing stocking) will vary greatly based on your store size, number of SKUs, stock on hand, and supplier rates, but plan for an average of $1,500 per pound of cannabis products, including flower, edibles, vape cartridges, tinctures, topicals, lotions, capsules, beverages, prerolls, etc.

GRAND TOTAL = $627,750 (not including cannabis product inventory)

*Disclaimer: This is a rough estimate of the upfront and first-year costs of opening a dispensary in Maine. It is to be used for informational and illustrative purposes only as every market, location, and business will have unique startup costs.

Apply for a Maine recreational dispensary license

ME's adult-use licensing process is straight-forward compared to other states, and the OCP website is pretty easy to navigate. On the Adult Use/Application Process page, you can read all about the process and expectations for each step.

The basics of applying for a dispensary license in ME

  • To open a dispensary in Maine, you need a dispensary license. There is no limit to the number of dispensary licenses available. However, municipalities must proactively opt-in to participate in the adult-use marijuana industry in the state.

  • There’s a three-step process for applications: Conditional, local authorization, and active licensure.

  • All owners, members, managers, and directors of the business entity must submit the application materials, including background checks.

  • All information can be submitted using the state’s online portal.

Eligibility

Maine’s adult-use license process outlines rules for who may apply to open a dispensary. Here are the criteria:

  • Be a Maine resident. If ownership of the dispensary license is to be held by a business entity, all officers, directors, managers and partners must be residents (and the majority of shares must be owned by Maine residents). Business entities must be incorporated in the state of Maine.

  • Be 21 years of age or older.

  • Cannot be employed by the state of Maine in any agency with regulatory authority.

  • Cannot be employed as a law enforcement or corrections officer.

  • Cannot have outstanding court-ordered debts.

  • Cannot have a previous conviction of a disqualifying drug offense. Disqualifying drug offense means a conviction for a violation of a state of federal controlled substance law carrying a max penalty of one year or more. This does not apply to sentences that were completed ten years or more prior to application submission. This also does not apply if the offense was for marijuana-related conduct that has been legalized.

  • Cannot have a history of revoked cannabis business license or medical marijuana ID card.

  • Agree to a mandatory criminal history record check.

  • Be truthful in all application materials.

Apply for a dispensary license in Maine

Getting a dispensary license in Maine is a three-step process. We’ll outline the basics here, but check out this resource from the state for a more detailed walk-through.

Before you begin, go to the online application portal. This portal, on the Regulatory Licensing & Permitting site at Maine.gov, allows you to:

  • Apply for or renew an Individual Identification Card (IIC)

  • Request a replacement IIC

  • Apply for an establishment conditional license for a cultivation, manufacturing, or retail facility

  • Apply to modify or change an active establishment license for a cultivation, manufacturing, or retail facility

  • Complete supplemental information for the issuance for an active license for a cultivation, manufacturing or retail facility

  • Renew an establishment license for a cultivation, manufacturing, or retail facility

  • Upload outstanding application documents

  • Update your contact information

Step One: Conditional Licensure

The first thing you’ll do is submit a background check, including fingerprinting. Tip! Schedule an appointment with IdentoGO. All owners, officers, directors, managers, or partners must submit a background check and all the application materials.

Then all applicants — and their employees — will need to apply for the Individual Identification Card (IIC).

Next you’ll pay the $250 application fee and submit the application information to obtain a conditional license, including:

  • Age and residency information

  • Information regarding criminal convictions in any state for offenses related to dishonesty, deception, misappropriation or fraud

  • Two years of income and tax information

  • Any outstanding tax liens imposed or levied against the applicant in this State or in another jurisdiction within the prior five years

  • Any other cannabis-related violations or penalties

Tip! You can submit the forms online or on paper, but online forms will be processed quicker.

Within 90 days, the OCP will either deny the license application, or issue a conditional license. Conditional licenses are non-renewable, and valid for one year. Licensees will need to obtain an active license before being permitted to cultivate, manufacture, test or sell adult use cannabis.

Step Two: Local Authorization

The next phase is securing authorization by the local municipality in which they plan to do business. The municipality is allowed 90 days to respond to your request for authorization (though sometimes they are given an additional 90 days).

The local municipality will determine whether the applicant has satisfied all local regulations and licensing requirements. They will either approve, or deny.

Step Three: Active Licensure

Within 10 days of receiving local authorization, the OCP will notify the licensee if any updated documents or additional information is needed, including:

  • Submitting a facility plan that specifies the location, size, and layout of the cannabis establishment

  • Evidence of compliance with all electrical and permitting requirements

  • Relevant tax information and documents

  • Changes to the original application (if applicable)

  • Updated plans (if applicable)

The licensee will now pay the licensing fee of up to $2,500 (depending on municipality). Bank checks or money orders are the only valid forms of payment — no cash or personal checks.

Now that all payments, approvals, and documentation has been sent, the OCP will review the information. Upon approval, they will be issued an active license, which is valid for one year.

The license will specify the date of issuance of the license, the period of licensure, the date of expiration of the license, the name of the licensee and the address of the licensed premises.

Note: Getting a medical cannabis license in Maine is a separate process, and may or may not have similar steps to the above.

Design your Maine dispensary

Dispensary design isn’t just about where your dispensary is, or what it looks like. It’s how your shoppers experience your brand.

Dispensary store layout
Pictured above: The bank model – a common dispensary layout

Here’s a short list of your considerations in store design and layout:

  • How customers will move throughout the store

  • Whether they will pay at a terminal, handheld device, or kiosk

  • Whether there’s different pathways for in-store vs. online orders

  • How your products will be display/showcased

  • Your brand elements and design

  • Use of entry or waiting room space

  • Security concerns of doorways

  • Where secure inventory is stored (both on the floor, if applicable, and in a vault)

  • Where staff will stand and work

  • Breakroom or safe staff area

  • Bathrooms

Beyond the design basics, Maine has a few requirements that impact your store’s layout:

  • A cannabis store may have a controlled, indoor entry area directly inside the front door, where an employee may verify the identification and age of customers, and where customers await entry into the sales area of the store. This controlled, indoor entry area must be physically separated from the sales area of the cannabis store.

  • A cannabis store may allow curbside pickup, but only for immature cannabis plants, seedlings, adult-use marijuana, and adult-use cannabis products, and at designated locations outside of the physical store, but near the entrance to the store, and in accordance with regulations.

  • A cannabis store can do delivery. But may not use automated dispensing or vending machines, or incorporate drive-through windows.

  • Medical marijuana dispensary and recreational dispensary stores must be separate. Adult-use licensees must not sell to customers within the same facility in which they sell medical cannabis.

  • Cannabis products may only be displayed in a way that prevents access to people who are not licensees or employees. Displays accessible to customers may include packaging or marketing materials for cannabis seeds, seedlings, plants, or products and mock examples, provided that no actual cannabis is present.

🤔🏬 Take the Store Layouts Quiz to find the perfect layout for your dispensary.

Create a safe and secure Maine dispensary

Maine’s state laws have strict security requirements for licensed dispensaries. You must ensure the safe storage and dispensing of cannabis, while preventing unauthorized access. The comprehensive measures include your physical building, windows and doors, alarm systems, video surveillance, lighting, and access.

Here are the mandatory security measures as set by the OCP:

Lighting

All gate and entry points at cannabis establishments must have sufficient lighting for visibility, allowing observers to see and cameras to record activities within 10 feet of these points.

Motion-detection lighting can be used in low-light conditions.

Doors and windows

Perimeter entry doors and doors separating limited access areas from visitor areas must have commercial-grade locks for high physical security.

All external entrances to indoor facilities on the licensed premises must be lockable.

Perimeter windows must be in good condition and lockable.

Alarm system

Monitored sensors are required on all perimeter entry points and perimeter windows.

Alarm systems must be monitored by a licensed security company capable of contacting the licensee and law enforcement if necessary.

The system must include an audible alarm that can be remotely disabled by the security company.

Video surveillance

Cameras must be permanently fixed inside and outside each entry/exit point, allowing identification of individuals entering and exiting the premises.

Cameras must cover areas where cannabis products are cultivated, manufactured, stored, prepared, tested, or where samples are collected.

Cameras must be present in areas where cannabis waste is stored or made unusable.

Each point of sale must have a fixed camera to ensure the identity of the purchaser.

Cameras must record all transactions in areas designated for curbside pickup by customers, including adjacent areas not within the licensed premises.

Cameras must cover areas within 10 feet of the exterior fence and gates of outdoor cultivation facilities.

Cameras recording delivery transactions must ensure the entirety of the transaction and the purchaser's identity.

Video surveillance requirements:

  • Minimum camera resolution is 720p.

  • Cameras and storage systems must be internet protocol (IP) compatible.

  • Cameras must record continuously or be motion-activated at a minimum of 15 frames per second.

  • Motion-activated storage must capture footage before and after motion.

  • All recorded images must display time and date according to U.S. National Institute Standards and Technology standards.

  • Surveillance system storage must be secured to prevent tampering or theft.

  • Surveillance equipment for recording deliveries must be secured when not in use, and recordings must be uploaded within 24 hours of the transaction.

  • Video surveillance must not include facial surveillance software.

  • Retain surveillance recordings, including delivery recordings, for a minimum of 45 days.

  • All videos are subject to inspection by the Department, and copies must be provided upon request.

  • Maintain a list of individuals with access to surveillance recordings and control access procedures.

Remember, the Plan of Record discussed earlier outlines some of these required safety and security features of your dispensary!

Learn the basics of dispensary security

Read the Dispensary Security Guide to find out where most dispensaries are at risk, then take action with best practices for both physical security and cybersecurity.

Hire and retain qualified dispensary employees

Now that you’re getting closer to opening day, it’s time to hire and train your dispensary employees. This team is vital to the success of your dispensary.

First, create your dispensary org chart. Based on your business plan, location, store design, and vision, what role are you going to play in the day-to-day operations and what additional staff do you need? What is the hierarchy? What benefits will you offer? And do you have the funds to pay your staff appropriately?

As a starting point, you’ll need someone to manage your store, budtenders or cannabis sales associates to serve customers and fulfill orders, someone to greet your shoppers (and secure the entryway), security, and someone to manage inventory and/or compliance. Based on the size and complexity of your business, you might need more or fewer people on your team.

Be sure to understand Maine’s ordinances around hiring and staffing and follow all requirements, both specific to cannabis brands, and general hiring/staffing rules. These could include procuring cannabis employment IDs, processing fingerprints and background checks, age requirements, and mandating attendance of certification training, payroll taxes, at-will parameters, and more.

Don’t forget that Maine dispensary staff must wear identification badges at all times while on the premises and be at least twenty-one years old.

Understand compliance

At this point, you should understand cannabis laws in Maine and what you need to do to keep your dispensary compliant.

As a reminder, possession limits for Maine are:

  • Adults over the age of 21 can possess or transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, or a combination of marijuana and marijuana concentrate (but can’t include more than 5 grams of concentrate).

  • Adults may cultivate up to 3 mature marijuana plants within their private residence.

  • Consumers can visit multiple dispensaries in one day, but may not exceed the daily purchase limits.

  • Medical marijuana patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of prepared marijuana and up to 6 mature marijuana plants.

The Seed to Sale Tracking program chosen by the OCP is Metrc. Metrc offers a wealth of education and training for new and prospective dispensary owners. We recommend attending those trainings and taking advantage of the Maine-specific resources provided by Metrc.

Cannabis stores in Maine are required to track all adult-use cannabis and cannabis products at every stage of their lifecycle. This includes all transportation to the store, up until the point of being sold to a customer, delivered to a testing facility, or disposed of/destroyed.

It’s imperative that licensees not only use Metrc to its full ability, but integrate it with their POS and inventory management software to ensure compliance. Flowhub can meet all the state’s requirements for product intake and control. We’ll talk more about your software vendors in a moment.

To learn more about Metrc, including how to report to Metrc, the difference between plant and package tags, making sense of Metrc receipts, managing inventory, and more, consult these resources:

Source and intake cannabis products

Now’s when things really start getting fun: ordering and receiving your product! If you’re not a vertically-integrated company, or only have a dispensary license, you’ll need to find cannabis growers, manufacturers, and/or distributors to supply your store.

Cannabis stores are authorized to sell:

  • Adult use cannabis, adult use cannabis products, and cannabis paraphernalia

  • Immature cannabis plants and seedlings

  • Consumable products not containing cannabis, including, but not limited to, sodas, candies and baked goods

  • Any other non-consumable products, including, but not limited to, apparel and cannabis-related products

As you’re looking for suppliers, here are a few things to consider:

  • What products they carry (think about your product mix)

  • The taste and quality of the products

  • Fulfillment (how do they get products to you and when)

  • Prices (and ability to negotiate bulk discounts)

  • Testing processes and results

  • Reliability (will they run out suddenly, stop communicating, etc.)

  • Process for placing orders and overall organization

You also want to ensure your suppliers are licensed facilities, and in good standing with the state.

Note: Testing is required in the state of Maine. Learn more.

Packaging and label requirements

Maine has a few specifications for cannabis product packaging and labels.

Labeling

All cannabis or cannabis products for sale in Maine must be labeled with the following information:

  • License numbers for all cultivation, manufacturing, and retail facilities involved in its production and sale.

  • Identity statement and universal symbol

  • Health and safety warnings as required

  • Batch number

  • Net weight

  • THC, cannabidiol, and all other potencies for edible products, as well as the number of servings per package

  • Amount of THC and cannabidiol per serving

  • Information on the gases, solvents, and chemicals used in the extraction

  • Instructions on usage

  • Amount of marijuana concentrate per serving and per package, in grams

  • List of ingredients and potential allergens

  • Expiration date

  • Nutrition facts for edibles

  • Any other information as required by rule by the department

Packaging

All cannabis or recreational use cannabis products offered for sale must be packaged in the following manner:

  • Child-resistant and tamper-evident packaging

  • Pre-packaged in opaque packaging (or an opaque container)

  • Multi serving liquid products must include a measuring component and child-resistant cap

  • Conform to all other applicable requirements and restrictions imposed by rule by the department

Licensees have a few options for additional packaging and labeling information. Specifically, you are allowed to include statements of compatibility with dietary practices, depictions of geometric shapes or cannabis leaves, or the terms “organic,” “organically cultivated,” or “organically grown” on packaging or labels.

However, packaging and labels may NOT include:

  • Anything in violation of a trademark law

  • Any elements that make the marijuana product look like it might be a federally trademarked product

  • Packaging that appeals to those under 21

  • Packaging that obscures the label or is misleading or false

  • Depictions of a human, animal, or fruit

  • Health or physical benefit claims

Inventory intake

Once your cannabis products arrive, you must “intake” them into your store in a specific way to remain compliant with Metrc. Before you can bring physical inventory into your store, you must receive and review a manifest. The manifest is created by the supplier — which will either be you or other cannabis companies.

The manifest includes the harvest, weight, unit of measure, cost, etc. of the product.

You must review the manifest, and if everything is correct, accept it. When the package comes in, you'll physically inspect the package, and make sure it’s exactly as ordered.

You then accept it in Metrc, which tells Metrc that you are in legal possession of this inventory.

Now you can stock your shelves and sell the product. But you’ll also need to develop SOPs for intaking and auditing your inventory.

Pro tip: Use this 📝 Inventory Intake SOP to document your processes!

Choose your network, hardware, and cannabis tech stack

Your technology stack is crucial to success as a cannabis business owner. Some are must-haves for compliance, like your security system and cannabis point-of-sale, while others are vital to a pleasant and seamless customer shopping experience.

Here are just a few of the technology solutions you’ll need to consider for your dispensary:

  • Network

  • Hardware
    • Printers (both letter-sized and receipts)

    • TVs

    • Cash drawers

    • Computers (for staff work, like inventory)

    • Tablets or terminals

    • Barcode scanners

  • Software
    • POS

    • Ecommerce

    • Payment provider for non-cash transactions

    • Digital menus

    • Kiosks

    • Loyalty programs

    • CRM

    • HR/Payroll tools

    • Accounting software

    • Analytics tools

    • Social media management and monitoring

    • Website

You don’t need to invest in every cannabis-specific technology solution, but make sure you’re using tools that will help you stay compliant and enable you to better reach and satisfy modern shoppers.

Remember: While non-cannabis-specific tools exist, they often can’t handle the complexities of the cannabis industry, such as compliance and inventory management. Be sure to thoroughly vet every potential partner to ensure that they can handle your actual needs.

cannabis technology

📖 Read the Guide to Cannabis Tech Software for a complete list of top cannabis companies for your dispensary tech stack.

Market your dispensary

Now that your store is ready, your team is trained, and all your technology is set, it’s time to get the word out.

Dispensaries notoriously have more challenges with marketing than traditional businesses because of stigma, regulations, and the federal illegality of the cannabis market.

But there are still many marketing tactics you can use to promote your new dispensary:

  1. Develop a beautiful, functional dispensary website. Enabling online ordering through your website is a great way to appeal to digital-friendly shoppers. Focus on product-based SEO to expand your reach.

  2. Fine-tune your social media presence (though be careful with what you post!).

  3. Develop a rewarding loyalty program.

  4. Consider events to attract new customers into your store.

Thinking about other forms of advertising?

Here are the basic rules set out by the OCP for cannabis-related advertising in Maine:

  • Signs, advertising, and marketing used by or on behalf of the licensee:
    • May not be misleading, deceptive, or false.

    • May not involve advertising or marketing that has a high likelihood of reaching persons under 21 years of age, or that is specifically designed to appeal to persons under 21.

    • May not be placed within 1,000 feet of the property line of any pre-existing school. Note: The Maine Land Use Planning Commission may choose to prohibit advertisements at distances greater or less than 1,000 feet, with the minimum being 500 feet.

  • Signs, advertisements, or marketing may not make health or physical benefit claims.

  • Advertisements may not be “unsolicited Internet advertising” such as banner ads or mass-market websites.

  • All marketing and advertising must be “opt-in” with an easy and permanent opt-out feature.

  • Marketing directed toward location-based devices is not permitted. The exception is apps downloaded by of-age users that have a permanent, easy opt-out feature.

  • Licensees are not allowed to give away marijuana plants or products.

Want to dive deeper? Read the statutes for Maine dispensary advertising.

How to choose a cannabis retail POS system

Your cannabis point of sale system is the single-most important tool in your stack. It is the central driver for compliance, inventory management, and customer satisfaction.

Every POS option is a little bit different — and not all work in every state — so be sure to do your homework before signing that dotted line.

Here are 10 tips for choosing marijuana retail software.

Flowhub cannabis point of sale for Maryland

What to look for in a cannabis POS:

  1. State compliance tracking: Metrc (and the other state reporting systems) is why software is so important. Having an API integration that manages this all seamlessly is paramount to save you time and provide peace of mind that you’re staying compliant.

  2. Hardware compatibility: Make sure your software and hardware choices are compatible. Pick a cloud-based software that doesn’t restrict hardware options so that you don’t incur any additional hardware costs or have to change hardware if you change point of sale systems later.

  3. Customer support: You need to get up and running quickly, but you also need ongoing support to answer any questions as they arise. As you demo different software, ask about the ongoing support process and level of support you’ll receive.

  4. Ease of use: Software that fuels your medical marijuana or adult-use retail stores must be easy and intuitive. Staff need to be able to learn it quickly. As you demo different POS systems, pay attention to how the system functions and whether you think it’ll make your staff more productive.

  5. Inventory management: Strong inventory capabilities will keep you compliant and competitive. Similarly, look for software that makes auditing easy, like having a mobile app. The right software should save you time and money in the long run.

  6. Built-in compliance: Software isn’t just important for compliance related to state reporting (like Metrc), it also should help you stay compliant with state marijuana laws, such as purchase limits. Make sure the software you choose has built in safeguards that address your market-specific needs.

  7. Discrepancy reporting: Your Metrc inventory, physical inventory, and point of sale inventory should always be in alignment. Your software should include built-in tools to help you identify and resolve inventory discrepancies.

  8. Activity tracking: In an industry with more loss and theft than the average, it’s important that you can track all activities in your store. This allows you to see what employee made what actions, and when those actions occurred, like making a sale, opening a drawer, moving inventory, etc.

  9. Open API and integrations: Is the software compatible with other vendors? It’s important to consider integrations, especially if you’re interested in online menus, delivery, loyalty programs or other technology offered by partners.

  10. Specialization: Consider the best software for each part of your business. If you have marijuana cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities, and cannabis retail operations, it’ll be tempting to pick one software for it all. Better visibility is tempting — you can’t deny that — but all software is best at one thing. If you choose one for all, it means you’ll be putting the other two parts of your business at a disadvantage. Instead, look for vendors who integrate seamlessly.

Need help opening your dispensary?

Opening a dispensary in Maine is quite an accomplishment. The market is growing rapidly!

If you have any remaining questions about opening a dispensary in Maine, our team of cannabis retail experts would be happy to support your journey.

Book a meeting with Flowhub to chat!

Amber erickson

Amber Erickson

Amber's goal is to create helpful and engaging content to empower cannabis professionals to run a successful and compliant dispensary. Connect with Amber on LinkedIn.

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