The Waiting Game: How to Get Your Cannabis Business Up and Running (even while you wait) in 3 steps

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Waiting is the hardest part.

Recreational cannabis entrepreneurs are waiting for many states’ licensing application processes to go live. This is especially the case in states with emerging markets such as Georgia and Michigan – and even in the case of recently established medical states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania - legislators are still working out the details around how adult recreational use and licensing will work in their unique markets – although it's getting closer.

Oklahoma has so far been a major exception to this rule, with its hands-off approach to government regulations in general making the “OK state” especially attractive to outside investors, particularly those arriving and setting up shop from mature cannabis markets like California. This trend has now made Oklahoma the state with the most dispensaries per capita in the nation.

Despite the wait, there is a lot to do to be prepared. Here are 3 critical key steps to complete ahead of time, so that you are ready to go the moment legislation in your desired state has been completed:

Step 1: Create a winning strategy — and execute. Each state in the union has a different approach to licensing cannabis businesses, however as the industry matures and adopts cannabis best practices, there are more details that are consistently the same. If a state's regulations are still evolving, it's safe to expect similar components such as social equity ownership and operating requirements. The differences can include community impact, diversity and outreach plans, as well as executive management team and advisory requirements. The sooner you know details of the state and local requirements, the sooner you can create a winning application strategy. Working with a team that has experience in an array of cannabis markets in several states will give you the upper hand strategically - while others sit around and wait.

Step 2: Nail down your business plan, pitch deck, and funding requirements. Maybe you've found the perfect space, and, better still, a community ready to welcome your new business to their Main Street shopping district or revamped Industrial Park. No matter how far along your host community and state’s regulatory and application processes are, you’ll need to be ready now with an air-tight strategy and supporting materials for winning over investors, business partners, and insuring compliance with local and state regulations.

Step 3: Create realistic financial and timeline projections. Legislation related to legalizing cannabis is still a controversial and sensitive topic in many states. The path to cannabis legalization is a time-consuming process. It therefore makes sense to add several months or even a year your financial projections, so you can be prepared for the inevitable delays related to opening your business. During the application phase, it is a common practice in most states to receive one or more requests for information (RFI) from the regulatory body reviewing your application. And amongst other things to consider, how long will you need to secure property for the licensing process? How long will the local permitting process take? When can you start the hiring process—and what does the rollout look like?

Expect these questions and others like them on your licensing application—and beyond. You’ll be better prepared to answer these licensing questions in detail—and win an application—by drawing from a solid business and operations plan that is prepared well beforehand.

Start now. Work with a cost-effective, cannabis expert. Maybe you’ve decided on the basics: who your ideal customers will be, where you want to open your cannabis business, and have developed an initial fundraising plan to generate initial rounds of capital to get your business off the ground. You may want to consider working with a consulting firm like Stratacann to help your cannabis business get to the next step. We can work with you on an hourly- or project-basis to help you achieve your business goals, including working with you to create an air-tight business plan, navigate and win host community support, and prepare a compliant and winning licensing application.

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