Cannabis Dispensary Laws

Laws regarding the production, sale, possession and use of cannabis products keep changing regularly in both the United States and Canada. Both countries govern medical and recreational cannabis but have varying degrees of control. Additionally, each jurisdiction or local municipality in the US can opt to institute its medical marijuana program or opt out of the recreational cannabis program in their state.

As an entrepreneur in the cannabis retail or dispensary business, understanding this patchwork of regulations is key to success. Knowing your own jurisdiction’s laws can help you just not comply with them, but also evaluate potential opportunities in the emerging legalized cannabis industry. In Canada, cannabis is federally legalized since 2018, but in the US, only 18 states have legalized cannabis for recreational use, while 35 states have a medical marijuana program. Keep reading for some basic details on both United States and Canadian cannabis laws, plus how to find specific information for your state or province.

United States Cannabis Laws

In the United States, the possession and distribution of cannabis are currently prohibited at the federal level. This is a unique issue for U.S. businesses in the legalized cannabis industry. However, several states now permit cannabis’ legal use for various purposes. You can find detailed information on US cannabis laws by visiting each state’s specific page.

Keep in mind that some jurisdictions permit cannabis for medical use only. Others allow consumption for both recreation and medical purposes. Some states have a medical marijuana program through which people can register. Depending on the jurisdiction, therapeutic use may be permitted for only qualified patients with certain medical and mental health conditions. These can include chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable spasticity, etc.

States that offer legal protection for cannabis also have laws governing its cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution. Their laws cover cannabis businesses’ establishment, plus various other operational aspects:

  • Regulatory agencies in each state
  • Licensing requirements
  • Taxation on cannabis products
  • Registration processes for medical marijuana users
  • Tracking and Traceability of cannabis


Canadian Cannabis Laws

Canada completely legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults in October 2018. This naturally opened opportunities for entrepreneurs: Sales continue to grow, with $3.25 billion in revenues during 2020. New regulations were introduced with its legalization. For instance, retailers must comply with recordkeeping and reporting requirements along with advertising restrictions at national and provincial levels.

Additionally, every province has specific rules on the production, sale, and consumption of cannabis products. They govern issues such as licensing, fees, marketing, operating hours, location requirements, and obtaining inventory. For instance, some laws spell out business day operating hours when a retail dispensary can remain open. You can view province-specific information through the links on this page.

Canada still allows access to marijuana beyond legal limits for specific medical purposes. Patients must obtain authorization from a healthcare provider. Provisions of the 2018 Cannabis Act now cover the country’s older medical marijuana program.

Smart Tools for Managing Your Dispensary

Staying abreast of laws on cannabis products is a vital part of your business. Cova Software simplifies your operations with streamlined solutions — point of sale systems, inventory management, compliance, reporting, delivery, e-commerce, cashless payment, and more. Find out how we can help your cannabis retail business succeed: Get in touch with us through our convenient contact form.