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Tips to Help Make Your License Application Succeed

By Matt Walstatter

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the state agency tasked with regulating Oregon’s recreational cannabis program, passed their temporary rules governing the program late last month.

State law requires them to begin accepting license applications on Jan. 4, 2016, so now the race is on.

Businesses applying to become licensed marijuana producers, processors, wholesalers or retailers have less than two months before they can file applications. At Pure Green, we are already hard at work on our license applications.

Licensing can be a huge challenge for all members of the Cannabis Industry, whether you are under deadline in Oregon or setting up shop elsewhere. It can be especially difficult for people (including most experienced cannabis entrepreneurs) accustomed to operating outside the regulated system.

What follows are some tips for the application process. Use these to make sure you file a bulletproof application in a timely manner.

Read the rules

I know this may sound obvious, but begin by reading the rules for your jurisdiction. In Oregon, that means reading almost 80 pages of legalese, but don’t be daunted and do not skip this step.

Take some time to read the rules. Keep a pen and paper handy to take notes and jot down any questions that you might have

You know how your business operates and you care more about your business succeeding than anyone else on the planet. You will spot issues specific to your business that others will miss. Plus, you cannot operate a compliant business if you don’t know the rules that you must follow.

Consult the Pros

While it remains crucial for you to read the rules, you should not be handling the application process on your own. Begin by finding an attorney, if you don’t have one already.

Make sure your attorney is an expert in cannabis compliance within your jurisdiction. You will also need expertise in corporate law, land use law and possibly other areas as well. If you work with a law firm, you will probably utilize multiple lawyers, with multiple specialties, within the firm.

You also need to make certain that all of your corporate work is vetted by an accountant. This is important in all industries, but especially so in cannabis, where 280E takes a disproportionate bite out of your income. Small, tax-related errors can be very expensive.

You may need to bring in other experts as well. In Oregon, for example, growers must submit proof of water rights with all applications. If your water rights aren’t locked down, you may need a consultant to help you navigate the Byzantine bureaucracy that governs water rights in most states.

Start early

Although the temporary rules only passed recently, at Pure Green we have been preparing for the application process for some time. Stay informed about the rulemaking process in your jurisdiction. This will give you a pretty good idea of what the rules will look like weeks or months in advance.

The sooner you start, the more likely you will be able to apply on the first day applications are accepted. This is particularly important in a state granting a limited number of licenses, especially if they are offered on a first in time basis. In Oregon, medical dispensaries cannot be located within 1,000 feet of one another, so applying early to secure real estate is particularly important.

Starting early can also help you avoid bureaucratic backlog and delays. When we applied for our dispensary license renewal earlier this year, we turned in our application about a month before our license was set to expire. The Oregon Health Authority, our regulator, assured us that this would be plenty of time.

In fact, it was not plenty of time. Delays on processing my background check meant that our renewal was not approved before our license expired. We were forced to close our doors for four days.

Oregon law allows us to file our renewal application 60 days before the license expired. Next year, I will file my application exactly 60 days before my license expires.

Don’t forget local government

Most states require some type of local government approval before issuing a state license. In Oregon, each local jurisdiction is allowed to regulate the time, place and manner for cannabis business operations. States may also ban these businesses outright under a complicated and highly specific set of rules.

Start by making sure your local government isn’t enacting a ban. Next find out what laws and rules they have passed regulating your type of business. Familiarize yourself with these in order to assure that your business complies.

If you find no local restrictions, your work is not done. You need to find out if they are working on any rules or planning to enact them down the road. The last thing you want is to spend your money and build your business, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath you by a local government.

With a little research, you can find out what regulations, if any, your local government might be considering. If you aren’t compliant with proposed rules, it’s easier (and less expensive) to know that up front.

The license application process varies widely among the various states and localities that allow some form of legal cannabis. Our Oregon medical dispensary application ran about 30 pages. One of my friends has a producer processor license in Reno. His application totaled more than 12,000 pages.

Whether your jurisdiction makes the process fairly easy, or whether the process reminds you more of a bad day at the dentist, following these basic steps will save you time and money.

Matt Walstatter

Matt Walstatter

Matt Walstatter and his wife, Meghan, are the owners of Pure Green, a patient owned and operated dispensary in Portland, Oregon. They have jointly owned and operated cultivation centers since 2001. Their dispensary opened in 2013. Matt can be reached at (971) 242-8561 or [email protected]

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Hi Matt –
    My husband and I are in the process of opening a dispensary in Eugene OR. as soon as we have completed our license application which is becoming a bitch! There are many questions on the forms which we are not sure how to answer. Trying to contact someone is ridiculous, as they are very untimely in their response. Would you be willing to answer just a couple questions that we don’t know how to answer on the application. We just want to get this done and they are ambiguous.
    Rhonda Scarborough

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