How to choose the right community for your cannabis business


This article is the second in a series entitled: “So do you want to start a canna business?” created in partnership with Good Tree Capital. Today we focus on choosing the right place for your weed business.

Here’s how to choose a location for your cannabis business in three steps:

Determine where you can goLearn more about the structure of the communityMake a plan that is sustainable on site

The first step in determining where to go is knowing where to go.

As a growing number of states legalize medical cannabis and adult cannabis, it is ultimately up to the community to decide whether cannabis operators can open a business in their county, town, village, or village.

Local community:

a political entity with corporate status and self-governing powers

There are also differences between communities that choose to sell cannabis legally. Some allow all types of cannabis operations, while others are more restrictive – only business-to-business (B2B) operators such as breeders or dealers are allowed to do business.

Local government has a role in determining whether and how your business works. So get to know your city administrators, city council members and the zoning authority. Ultimately, they need to be sure that your company will be a win-win for the community.

A card highlighting the varying legalities of running a county-level cannabis business in Massachusetts.This map shows the varying legalities of running a community cannabis business in Massachusetts. (Source: WBUR, 2018)

Heads of government will make practical considerations such as:

Does your location comply with all local zoning regulations? Does your security plan protect against thieves and violent criminals? Will your suggested location cause traffic jams? How do you protect yourself against illegal (underage) access to your product?

And they also have fundamental considerations that become considerations for you as a cannabis entrepreneur:

Are you a member of the community versus a non-government company looking to expand? Are you going to invest in programs that benefit the community rather than earning your profits elsewhere? Will you employ local residents or hire them externally?

This highlights one of the most important factors to consider when choosing your community – the people who make up the population. At its simplest level, this means that you need to study general demographic statistics about the population, including information on gender, race, and generation structure.

The economic profile of the community is also crucial. It is important to understand the statistics on employment, education, income and other relevant socio-economic factors. It can be an area with a thriving economy and resources, or one of the many Disproportionately Affected Areas (DIA) hit by the war on drugs.

Years of harsh criminalization of cannabis has resulted in astronomical incarceration rates, economic divestment, and decades of generational trauma.

Learn more about Insights

This explains why the principles of social justice have become increasingly entrenched in the emergence of the cannabis industry. This reality presents the opportunity, challenge and responsibility for your company to create economic value for all parties involved – including owners, customers, employees and suppliers. Indeed, the entire community.

If you think critically about running your business in a way that creates value for the entire community, you can create a positive cycle. Once you’ve chosen an area to set up the shop, you’ll be there in the long term.

When your local economy flourishes, your profits flourish. As your neighborhood grows, so does your business. Investing in the community, whether through supporting community-based organizations, creating community service programs, or making regular donations to charity, is an essential investment in your business.

Finally, be careful: the cost and the ability to maintain the cost of a site until licensing and running the business is often a very limiting factor for an aspiring cannabis business owner.

Cultivators may want to look for real estate in areas of low cost and low population density. This applies to manufacturers and distributors as well as all other B2B cannabis companies.

Pharmacies need to be where their customers are and may face the greatest challenge of finding a compliant location. Strict legal restrictions on where pharmacies can be located add to costs and decrease qualified locations.

However, real estate costs are only part of the equation. Many states require a cannabis company to secure real estate before obtaining its state license or operating permit.


10 questions you need to ask before starting a cannabis business

For example, an applicant in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must be able to demonstrate to the government that they have premises (real estate) that meet all of the legal requirements for their specific type of license.

This poses an obvious risk as many cannabis tenants may never be licensed. States like Illinois are beginning to move away from these practices. Either way, you should do whatever you can to both lower the cost of your property and delay payments until your business starts generating income.

The process of opening a cannabis business is definitely not an easy one. Finding the right community for your cannabiz takes your patience and hard work. However, your determination will lead to the success of your business and your community.

By submitting this form, you are subscribed to Leafly news and promotional emails and agree to Leafly’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Leafly email messages at any time.


Beth Edmonds