How to Open a Dispensary in New York

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New York state is an incredibly difficult place to get a dispensary or any other cannabis business up and running

Registered Organizations (the official name of cannabis businesses) are in charge of supplying, delivering and manufacturing all the medical cannabis to qualifying patients throughout the state. Here is everything you will need to know to open up a cannabis dispensary in New York.

Legalization in New York

In July 2014, in accordance with regulations, New York governor Andrew Cuomo legalized medical cannabis for all qualifying patients in the state .

Cannabis dispensaries (also known as Registered Organizations) are responsible for manufacturing and supplying New York State with medical cannabis products.

When was cannabis made legal

Legalization in New York – Image powered by

How Many Dispensaries Operate in New York?

Currently 10 registered dispensaries and other businesses operate through out the state. So far they have not indicated when the application window will reopen.

The medical cannabis program license application period was open from April 27-June 5, 2015. Only five registered organizations were awarded legal status as of August of 2015. License holders are allowed to operate 4 dispensaries, totaling to 20 locations throughout New York state. The first dispensaries in the state opened on January 7, 2016.

New York’s program authorized each license holder to operate one cultivation and processing facility and five geographically-spread out dispensaries.

As of 2016, 526 physicians were registered to certify patients for medical marijuana. So far, 2,675 patients have received certifications.

What is the Cannabis Market in New York Worth?

Medical sales in 2016 amounted to 35.7 million. Estimated medical sales for 2021 are projected to reach $253.5 million.

Owner’s Requirements

New York is a pretty difficult state to open up a dispensary, due to high costs and lower interest among physicians in the state.  Although New York state is attempting to address the problem, there is no planned date for the re-opening of retail business applications, which closed initially in 2015.

This could change though, since a biannual report that came out in August 2016 suggested 12 recommendations for improving the program. One of the main recommendations suggested adding five more dispensaries within the next couple years.

Dispensary Owner requirements

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Several of the suggestions contained therein have been implemented, such as home delivery, accepting chronic pain as a qualifying condition for treatment, wholesale, and lastly allowing physicians assistants and nurse practitioners to authorize patients for the program.

New York state law does prohibit smokeable cannabis, just so you are aware. This law alone, makes both patients and physicians less likely to show interest in the medical cannabis program.

Licensing and Financial Requirements

In order to acquire a license, applicants were required to submit the following:

  • $10,000 non-refundable application fee
  • $200,000 registration fee, refunded to applicants not issued a registration

Licensing and renewal fees are pretty pricey in New York:

  • Registered Organization Registration Fee= $200,000 (submitted at time of application, and refunded if application is subsequently denied)
  • Registered Organization Registration Renewal Fee= $200,000 (submitted at time of application, and refunded if application is subsequently denied)

What is My Expected Profit?

Cannabis dispensaries in any state can make anywhere from fifty thousand dollars, to millions, sometimes even tens of millions of dollars. This can help greatly offset the cost of owning and operating a dispensary.


Your expected timeframe can vary, but you should expect it to take about a year or more to get all of your affairs in order, find employees for your business, not to mention acquisition of your license.

Consulting Companies

The following companies provide a wide range of services anywhere from helping with state licensing requirements and applications, to everyday operations.



  1. Sohil Kamdar on

    Interested in opening medical dispensary in New York city and surrounding area.

    Please call me at 3472006535

  2. So marijuana is not recreational yet in New york. Would it be worth throwing it all in to start a dispensary now and ride with the change or wait until it’s recreational and start to take in the money legally to a larger scale of patients?

    • It would be best if the elected overlords in NY state could see past their own noses and realize that the tax revenue generated from legalized recreational sales would shore up the state’s depleted coffers, and legalizing weed would stem the flow of people fleeing the state. New York, the Empire State.

  3. Thanks for making me aware of how much profit cannabis dispensaries make. If I only knew this earlier, I would have opened my own store years ago. I will explore my options with my business partner, on the logistics of running your own dispensary in the SF area in the coming weeks. Thanks!

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