Starting a cannabis company in Washington? We’ve put together a state-specific guide covering everything from available license types to fees, regulations, and what you should include in an Washington cannabis business plan. Jump to a section by clicking below, or go straight to our sample cannabis business plan.
Recreational and medical marijuana are both legal in Washington State. Patients with a written recommendation from a doctor can possess up to 3 ounces of usable cannabis, as well as grow up to six marijuana plants at home. Nearly 50,000 patients have registered for medical marijuana use in the state, significantly up from under 19,000 in 2017.
Washington has combined its medical and recreational marijuana programs. That means that recreational dispensaries can sell medical marijuana if they get an endorsement for medical cannabis, which requires additional testing and different labeling than recreational products do. About 200 recreational dispensaries in Washington also sell medicinal marijuana.
The number of recreational marijuana customers in Washington is estimated to be about 1.5 million people. Adults can possess up to 1 ounce for recreational use. Marijuana sales at recreational dispensaries in Washington could reach $1.7 billion in 2021.
Washington issues licenses for five broad categories of cannabis businesses: producers (cultivators), processors, retailers (aka dispensaries), researchers, and testing labs.
Producer: These businesses, also called cultivators or grow operations, grow cannabis plants indoors or outdoors. Marijuana is then either sold through a dispensary or sold to a producer that will create products with it, such as edibles or oils. In Washington, producer license-holders can also sell marijuana seeds, clones, and immature plants to medical marijuana cooperatives. You can be both a producer and a processor. More info is here.
Processor: Processors buy cannabis from licensed growers, then process and/or create infused products, package and label them, and sell them to dispensaries. Products that appeal to kids, as well as gummies, are forbidden. More info is here.
Retailer (aka dispensary): This is a retail storefront where patients and consumers can purchase marijuana. Dispensaries must follow strict state-mandated protocols for labeling, disposal, inventory, transport, and more. You can’t sell cannabis online or offer delivery in Washington. More info is here.
Testing lab: Consumers and regulators alike demand consistency and quality control in cannabis products, which creates demand for marijuana testing labs. These labs use methods like liquid or gas chromatography to analyze products for CBD and THC content, pesticides, terpenes, bacteria, fungi, and heavy metals, to name a few.
Ancillary business: If you don’t want to grow or sell cannabis in Washington, there are plenty of other ways to be part of the booming cannabis industry. You can create a marijuana app, payment processing service, consulting firm, pest management product, accounting firm, automated plant watering system, security service, packaging labeling service, or legal firm--and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Local governments may forbid cannabis companies or certain locations, so check city and county regulations. Check out this map to see if commercial cannabis is permitted in your area.
Application fees: Applying to be a cannabis producer, processor, or retailer in Washington $250 for recreational companies. The state is no longer accepting applicants for medical-only licenses.
License fees: It’s $1,480 for a medical or recreational cannabis business license in Washington, whether you’re a producer, processor, or retailer.
Tracking: All commercial cannabis businesses are required to use Washington’s seed-to-sale tracking system, appropriately titled Cannabis Central Reporting System (CCRS).
Background check: You must undergo a criminal background check. If you’ve been convicted of a felony, or more than two possession misdemeanors, you aren’t eligible to get a marijuana business license.
Washington is not currently accepting applications for cannabis producer (cultivation) licenses, and it’s unknown whether business plans will be required as part of the application process in the future. Business plans are not required for other cannabis businesses in Washington. However, a business plan will certainly make the application process easier. Your application already has to include an operating plan, source of funds statement, and management summary with names, titles, qualifications, and functions, all of which naturally overlap with a business plan. And if you plan on raising funding from investors, you definitely need a business plan.
Here’s what an Washington marijuana business plan should include:
Google your city or municipality name and “cannabis regulations” or “marijuana laws,” or check this map of Washington cities and whether they allow cannabis businesses. If your city or municipality’s website doesn’t have information about cannabis, check recent local news coverage or contact your city clerk, city manager, or town hall.
Confused or overwhelmed yet? That’s normal. With such a highly regulated industry, and one with different rules in every state, starting a cannabis company can be very complex. Get help with your cannabis business plan from Masterplans, the industry leaders. We’ve worked with hundreds of cannabis entrepreneurs like yourself to create investor-ready documents and presentations so you can not only meet regulations but get the funding you need. Click below for your free, confidential consultation: