Washington Cannabis Consultant Overview:

How To Open A Marijuana Business in Washington

Are you interested in starting a cannabis business in Washington ? The cannabis consultants at New Leaf can help you navigate the process!

This summary of Washington requirements and license application process outlines what it takes to win a marijuana business license. Get started today to meet the demands of consumers! Schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable cannabis consultants in Washington.

Washington Cannabis Consulting & License Application Writing Experts

New Leaf Cannabis Consulting is the #1 Top Rated Cannabis Application Writing, Consulting, and Capital Fundraising one-stop-shop in the U.S. We offer a complete range of services from business model formation and planning, to state licensure, to raising capital and finding investors for the business.

New Leaf has worked with over 180 clients in over 16 different states since we opened our doors in 2015. Our success rate is well over 95% across the board. We offer more services than any of our competition.

If you need cash for your cannabis startup, and/or state and municipal license approval for a completely reasonable price, look no further than New Leaf Cannabis Consulting.

Cannabis Market Condition Overview

Business Climate and Timeline

Washington is one of the most long-standing cannabis markets in the country with over 20 years of decriminalization. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board of Licensing and Regulation and The Department of Revenue oversee licensing. Washington’s medical marijuana and recreational marijuana regulations were incorporated into one regulatory framework in July of 2016. The passage of Initiative 502 in December 2012 made Washington the first state in the U.S. to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The Cannabis Patient Protection Act (RCW 69.51A), integrates the medical market with the regulated recreational market. Under the act, the Department of Health adopted rules for a medical marijuana authorization database, product compliance, and certification of medical marijuana consultants.

Real Estate & Zoning

In most states, you will need to lock down the location for business operations in the form of either a lease, lease with option to purchase, or a purchase agreement.

Most importantly, during the real estate acquisition process, your company MUST make sure that the actual location COMPLETELY adheres to state and municipal regulations regarding distance restrictions from other businesses such as a daycare or school. An example of this would be Dispensary/Retail. Most times you will not be able to locate your dispensary in a section of the city which is not zoned specifically for retail. Your dispensary location cannot be located anywhere else. Check with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board for locality resolutions and ordinances.

Usually the next step is Municipal/City/Township Approval. Nine times out of ten, these steps will need to take place before the full license application can be completed and submitted.

Washington Local Zoning Ordinances
City and county zoning measures adopted since initiative 502 was approved are vary widely. Some jurisdictions have enacted total prohibition, while others have allowed cannabis businesses to operate in appropriate zoning districts.

  • Retail marijuana businesses (retail zones)
  • Outdoor marijuana production (agricultural zones)
  • Indoor marijuana production and processing (industrial zones)

Cannabis businesses are forbidden from operating within 1000 feet of any the following:

  • Elementary or secondary school
  • Playground
  • Recreation center or facility
  • Child care center
  • Public park
  • Public transit center
  • Library
  • Game arcade that allows minors

Local authorities will also be notified of all cannabis license applications and are given the opportunity to file objections. Cities, towns, and counties in Washington State can choose to opt out of the state’s cannabis program and or to designate appropriate zones for marijuana businesses. The LCB has final authority over whether to grant or deny the license to operate in Washington State.

Laws and Regulations

As you get started, read up on Washington’s laws, rules, and regulations. The primary statutes for recreational marijuana are codified in chapter 69.50 RCW, the medical marijuana statutes are located in chapter 69.51A RCW. The Liquor and Cannabis Board regulations for marijuana are found in chapter 314-55 WAC.

Indoor cannabis grows must take place within a fully enclosed, secure indoor facility or greenhouse with rigid walls, a roof, and doors. Outdoor producers may grow cannabis in “non-rigid greenhouses, other structures, or an expanse of open or clear ground fully enclosed by a physical barrier.” Outdoor cannabis grows must be enclosed by a “sight obscure” wall or fence at least eight feet high.

Need assistance getting a Washington cannabis business license?  Schedule a Free Consultation

Washington Cannabis License Types

Currently there are 6 types of marijuana-related licenses in Washington:

  • Cannabis Producer License (3 tiers)
  • Cannabis Processor License
  • Cannabis Retailer License
  • Cannabis Transportation, License
  • Cannabis Marijuana Research License
  • Cannabis Cooperatives Registration License

Washington Cannabis Grower’s License Tiers

Washington has three tiers of grower’s licenses based on square footage of the operation. These include:

  • Tier 1 — under 2000 square feet
  • Tier 2 — 2000 to 10,000 square feet
  • Tier 3 — 10,000 to 30,000 square feet

Operations that fail to utilize greater than half of their space may be moved to a lower tier by the LCB.

Washington Cannabis License Process and Scoring Criteria

Washington Cannabis License Requirements

Cannabis licenses are awarded by having a complete and well written application and all required supplemental documentation as well as city approval. An applicant’s criminal history also comes into play as well as past taxes of the owner/directors of the company. And of course, sometimes there is a required proof of capitalization — i.e. proving that you will have enough money in the bank to build out and run your business.

In highly competitive states such as Illinois or New York, there is a scoring process for an extremely limited number of available licenses. Licenses will be awarded to only the best of the best submissions. It is highly suggested that you hire an agency that can provide you with an “above and beyond” application submission.

Eligibility for a Cannabis License in Washington

To apply for a marijuana license in Washington, applicants must meet several qualifications and eligibility requirements necessary to receive a license. Each applicant must be 21 years of age or older and is required to undergo a criminal background check.

Application Requirements for Marijuana Licenses in Washington

To apply for a cannabis business license, you must show compliance with Washington laws and local ordinances. To illustrate your commitment to the process, hundreds of pages of technical writing may be necessary.

Some of the necessary documentation includes the following:

  • License Application (Required Measures and/or Exhibits). A well written application will need to be written in lockstep with the State Regulations for each Exhibit/measure.
  • Business Plan. Including executive summary, mission statement, market analysis, 5 to 7 year business life-cycle timeline with expansion events. Products and services, management and staff, SWOT analysis, quality assurance and compliance.
  • Financials. Full 5 to 7 year financial projections, income statement, balance sheet, statement of cash flows.
  • Operations Manuals, Exhibits and SOP’s such as:
    • Inventory and Recordkeeping/Diversion
    • Quality Assurance Manuals
    • Operations Manuals/Procedures for cultivation, processing, dispensary, lab testing, transportation
    • Transportation and Distribution Plan
    • Employee, Staffing and Training Manuals
    • Social and Economic Impact/equity plans/community outreach plan
    • Environmental Plans with water and electrical usage plan/manual
    • Chemical and Pesticide Storage Plans
    • Waste Disposal Procedures
    • Accounting and Tax Compliance
    • Hemp Research Plan
    • Sanitation and Maintenance Plans
    • Odor Control Plan
    • Patient/Customer Education Manuals (mainly for dispensary/retail)
  • Labor/Union Compliance Agreements
  • Training Manuals. New Leaf will design manuals to your specifications, along with state regulations, for all cannabis business models
  • Regulatory Compliance Manuals. These explain all the different regulatory compliance regulations, such as quality assurance, product recall, packaging and labeling, advertising, hours of operation, patient and/or customer purchase limits, staffing and training, inventory and record keeping, security, tax payment and insurance compliance.
  • Security Plan. Video Surveillance, Alarm System, Emergency Procedures.
  • Floor Plans, Blueprints. To-Scale, with Security Overlays. Floor plans of the entire facility.
  • Corporate Structuring. Social Equity Certification and Registration, LLC and Corporation Registration and FEIN filing, Operating Agreements, Capitalization Tables, Shareholder Rights and Regulations Consultation, Corporate Bylaw Strategy.

Post Licensure Support. New Leaf serves as a liaison between you, your company, and the State Licensing Commission to help you get through the application evaluation. The State, no matter how good your application is, most definitely will have follow up questions and requests for additional documentation and/or information.

Denial Appeal. Denial appeal is also part of the Post Licensure Support.

Financial Requirements — How much does it cost to get a cannabis license in Washington?

Many states will require what is known as a Capitalization Attestation. What is this, you may ask? A capitalization attestation is usually done by a CPA. It involves submitting your profit and loss statements, bank account information, proof of funds, and an assumption of the costs for startup CapEx and OpEx.

Need Cash for your Cannabis Startup? New Leaf offers a full suite of Investment Capital Fundraising Services including corporate structuring and partnership agreements, 409 (B) company valuations, 5-7 year pro forma financial projections, and more! New Leaf will act on your behalf in actually SHOPPING the deal to our syndicate of accredited investors from across the globe. We can help you successfully raise the capital needed to get your project off the ground. Find out more here.

Application Fees, License and Renewal Fees

  • The annual license and renewal fee is currently $1381 and has been subject to change over the years.
  • There will likely be a non-refundable application fee of $250.
  • If a business purchases an existing company, a Change in Governing People, Percentage Owned and/or Stock/Unit Ownership form must be filed for a $75 fee.

How to Win a Washington Cannabis Business License

A step-by-step guide on how to apply for and WIN a cannabis license in Washington.

  1. Review the state laws, rules & regulations. Learn about the rules and regulations necessary to operate a cannabis business in the State of Washington. This will help you and your team understand the requirements to win a cannabis license.
  2. Choose a Washington cannabis business license type. Washington issues 6 different types of cannabis business licenses.
  3. Connect with a Washington cannabis consulting firm. Consider reaching out to a Washington cannabis consultant. Cannabis business license applications can be extremely complex and time-consuming to write. The professional Washington marijuana consultants at New Leaf can manage the entire process for you. We can assist you with license application writing services, increasing your chance of winning a cannabis license in Washington. Book a free consultation today!
  4. Form a business entity. Forming a legal business entity is the next step in the process of applying for a cannabis license in Washington. LLCs and corporations are the two types most commonly formed by cannabis applicants. Find out which is the best choice for your business goals — we can help.
  5. Select a location for your cannabis business in Washington. Choosing a property for your cannabis business that meets all the state and local requirements can be complicated as well. Our experience with zoning processes that can help you find the ideal property for your marijuana business.
  6. Build the best team. The team that you list on your application will have a major impact on whether or not you receive a license.
  7. Write a business plan. After securing a location for your cannabis business, the next step is to develop a carefully detailed business plan. Your business plan will help lay out your goals and track progress as your business begins to grow. Business plans can also help attract investors. Investors use them to determine if a business is on the right path and worth putting money into.
  8. Raise capital for your Washington cannabis business. Although start-up costs for a cannabis business can be significant, careful planning and the right team can make it a huge success. New Leaf can help you craft a detailed plan and get it into the hands of investors.
  9. Write and submit your Washington cannabis business application. Depending on type of license, applicants may need to write and submit the following documentation:
  • Business Plan and Financials
  • Corporate Structuring
  • Safety and Security Plan
  • Location Information
  • Waste Disposal Procedures
  • Transportation and Distribution Plans
  • Employee, Staffing and Training Manuals
  • Regulatory and Compliance Plans
  • Quality Assurance and Control Plans
  • and much more!