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A Guide for Next Steps for Maryland Dispensary License Winners


Maryland recently held a lottery for social equity applicants to receive one of 179 cannabis dispensary licenses. At over 1,500 eligible applicants, if you are one of the Maryland adult-use business license winners, congratulations — this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Now the real work, and real excitement, begins for winners to create a successful cannabis dispensary brand.

Next Steps for Maryland Dispensary License Winners

When you consider everything you need to do to launch your cannabis store, it can feel overwhelming. Unlike other retail industries, cannabis retail is truly unique as there are many nuances to consider, including compliance, zoning and social stigma, to name a few. You need to learn as much as possible, as early as possible, to avoid critical errors. 

These 6 steps will give you the guidance you need to get on the path to retail success. 

Step 1: Learn As Much As Possible From Free Resources

Before you dive right in and spend valuable time and resources hiring a consultant or getting right into the details of your business, take some time to orientate yourself in the cannabis retail world. Consider useful free resources such as articles about opening a dispensary and sign up for seminars. Learn from people and brands who’ve done it before and from those who’ve helped thousands of others do it. Also, focus mainly on those that are about dispensaries in Maryland. Each state can have different regulations and processes, so you really want to spend as much time getting the local information that will be most relevant to you.

Step 2: Meet with Consultants and Tech Vendors

Consultants can be very valuable resources as they have the experience and knowledge to provide you with advice along your journey. Meet with a few consultants as quickly as possible to understand the cost and determine if you feel they will add value for you. Be aware that a cannabis consultant can be quite expensive and not all will add the value you need. You’ll need to do extensive research, identify where you have knowledge gaps and shop around to find the right consultant to fit your needs, at your budget—which may or may not be possible. 

Along with consultants, you need to meet, and vet, key tech vendors. There’s no getting around the fact that you will need technology for your dispensary. Your Point of Sale (POS) technology is the most important as it will be the heart of your retail operation. Critically, look for POS vendors that are purpose-built for the cannabis industry. Industry-specific vendors help ensure the compliance of your dispensary.

A good POS vendor offers much more than technology, products and compliance, however. You want a vendor that will deliver guidance, education and advice on how to best set up your store. They should also offer support after you’re up and running and help connect you with other vendors and resources. They should be a trusted partner. Look for a POS vendor that has lots of experience, a successful track record and longevity in the cannabis space. This helpful guide covers the things you should consider.  

Cannabis POS Buying Guide

Step 3: Develop Your Marketing Plan

It’s important to understand that your brand doesn’t depend on your store being operational. You can begin building your brand well before you open your doors to your first customer. Build buzz through online marketing, including social media. Remember, the cannabis industry is heavily regulated for marketing, so be sure you consider compliance in everything you plan.

Marketing also includes community outreach. If you know where your business will be located, get to know your neighbors and your neighborhood. Communicate with nearby businesses, answer questions, and help them understand that your dispensary will be a safe and valuable part of the business community. 

Step 4: Location and Store Design

If you don’t know where your store will be, it’s definitely time to start looking. When choosing locations, you want to be in an accessible area and you want the space to be adaptable for your store layout needs. 

There are a number of ways to layout your dispensary and like any good interior designer will tell you, every choice you make will have an impact on your customers as they enter and move through your store. 

Again, compliance with Maryland’s regulations must factor in every decision you make.  

Step 5: Defining Your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Your operations and how your staff carry out those operations can have a huge impact on your customer experience, your efficiency, your profitability and your compliance. How? Well, properly maintained SOP documents make it clear to your employees how they should be doing their job. With clear expectations they can perform more reliably and more quickly, helping them give customers better service, they can more reliably perform compliance duties (such as identification checks and sales limits), and it makes it much easier for you to onboard new employees. 

Step 6: Security and Insurance

Security and insurance are critical for any retail business, but are especially critical for cannabis retail. For security, this includes external risk and internal risk from your staff. Cannabis is small, valuable, and easily sellable on a known black market. Like everything cannabis retail related, there is also a compliance component to your security and insurance needs as a dispensary. In most states, including Maryland, you must have a robust security plan in place. A good security plan includes:

  • Security cameras
  • Access control and perimeter security
  • Data storage
  • Video analytics
  • Trained employees 
  • Integrated Cannabis POS

Insurance is also an important aspect of any cannabis business. For your cannabis store, insurance is about more than theft. You need to also protect your business against staff and customer injury, and financial losses. Insurance should include:

  • Business Liability Insurance
  • Business Interruption Insurance
  • Commercial Property Insurance

Connect with Cova

For any of the Maryland cannabis dispensary lottery winners, huge congratulations on this incredible opportunity. Take this time to learn about the journey that’s ahead and please connect with us at Cova. We have helped more than 2,000 retailers launch their first store and grow to over one hundred locations. We know retail, have worked with cannabis retailers in Maryland and have trusted partners that can help you be set up for success in all aspects of your new cannabis dispensary.


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