Are Dispensaries Profitable? A Startup Guide For New Dispensaries

March 23, 2022 by Agata Kaczmarek

According to IBIS World, the medical and recreational marijuana industry is worth $19 billion. Around 25,000 businesses employ over 56,000 individuals throughout the country. But, of course, dispensaries are limited by individual state laws, with only 17 states making the substance legal on a recreational level and 36 in a medical capacity. 

Despite the restrictive nature of many states, it’s no wonder future business owners want to get in on their slice of the pie – the $19 billion industry. This article will outline how, the cost, and how profitable a dispensary might be. 

Common Steps to Starting a Profitable Dispensary

  1. Researching and planning, such as whether you can move forward with recreational marijuana or only medical
  2. Licensing and application which will largely depend on the location
  3. Write a Business Plan
  4. Estimate the cost of starting a dispensary
  5. Secure financing for the business
  6. Find the ideal location
  7. Choosing the right team members and technology
  8. Create a security plan
  9. Source the product

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Dispensary Business?

Launching a dispensary business is similar to opening any new small business, though there might be more hurdles to overcome. State regulations might make the financial blow a little harder to handle. 

According to three different sources (Cova, TheCannibisIndustry, Blaze), the following startup costs can be expected:

Minimum startup cost for dispensary business = $150,000

Maximum startup cost for a dispensary business = $2 million

Average startup costs for a dispensary business = $750,000

The majority of startup costs will fall into the following categories:

  1. Required Capital - The amount will vary depending on the state. For example, Illinois requires $400,000 in the bank before granting any licenses.
  2. Licensing and Applications
  3. Real Estate
  4. Professional Services
  5. Staff
  6. Equipment
  7. Security and Surveillance
  8. Marketing and Advertising
  9. Product

How Much Can a Dispensary Business Make in Sales?

Aside from the love of the job, most individuals go into business with the hope of a sizeable revenue. Dispensary owners stated their profits are well worth the effort, though it will range based on many factors. Pricing products and estimating expenses is a good way to ballpark potential revenue. 

  1. How to Set the Prices in a Dispensary?

The first step toward a good profit estimate is to decide on the product’s price. There are two common ways of setting the price: market-based pricing and target-based pricing. 

A) Market-Based Pricing

Market-based pricing sets the product price based on the wider market. All that is needed is a quick and simple online search. This pricing model aims to determine what prices potential competitors set and ensure your prices stay in the ballpark. 

Staying within the price of other dispensaries will give your business an advantage without fear of chasing customers away. Prices set either too high or too low have an impact on whether individuals walk into the dispensary in the first place. Low prices have the same effect on a consumer’s mentality as a price that’s set too high. 

B) Target-Based Pricing

The target-based approach will require more work. Product price is set with an end goal since you’ll want to target an overall profit. Rather than attempting to match competitors, you focus on your business by trying to achieve a certain monetary goal at the end of the year. The best way to start this approach is through determining a goal profit margin.

According to Northstar Finance, the profit margin for a dispensary is an average of 15% to 21%. So let’s say for the purpose of the estimate, the goal is a 20% profit margin. The next step will be determining the potential operating costs. With both numbers, you can quickly determine the amount of revenue the business needs to meet the profit margin.

Product prices should then get set to meet the needed revenue to offset the operating costs. Of course, the profit margin the business aims for could be any number you choose, but it’s good to remember that there is competition. Dispensaries are a growing business within the approved states, and you don’t want to turn off any potential clients with too high prices. 

  1. How many potential clients will come to the dispensary?

While calculating potential revenue and profit, estimating the number of clients is vital. A Gallup poll conducted in 2019 revealed that 12% of all Americans smoke marijuana, with the CDC claiming at least 18% have tried it once. In addition, specific age groups and country regions have been found to frequent dispensaries more than others, bringing everything back to the location.

When going through a potential revenue estimate, consider the dispensary’s location. We’ll assume it’s in a legal state, but the city and people who live there make a huge difference in the overall success of the dispensary. The Western and Eastern regions of the United States show to frequent dispensaries more often; 16% and 15%, respectively. 

According to the same Gallup study, the younger age group from 18 to 29 are more likely to partake as well, with numbers as high as 22%. So choosing a city with a younger crowd will make all the difference in potential revenue, something to keep in mind. 

Dispensary revenue potential

Once the prices are set, and an estimated amount of clients is in place, the time to crunch some revenue numbers has arrived.

Gateway Proven Strategies tells us that dispensaries make around $974 annually per square foot of space. Dispensaries average between 3,357 and 4,308 square feet of space as of 2020, with recreational dispensaries averaging on the larger side. 

After gathering that information, the calculation is rather simple. $974 x 3,357 = $3,269,718 or $974 x 4,308 = $4,195,992. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the dispensary has to stick to this revenue or size. A larger dispensary might make more, but it also comes with a higher operating cost. Larger doesn’t guarantee the same income per square foot, leaving a wide range of potential revenue.

Dispensary Annual Revenue

These three sources (AmericanCannabisCompany, MJBizDaily, GatewayProvenStrategies) explain the potential revenue a dispensary could achieve.

Minimum revenue for a dispensary = $500,000

Maximum revenue for a dispensary = $4 million

Average revenue for a dispensary = $1,000,000

What Are Common Expenses for A Dispensary?

As with any other business, dispensaries come with a whole host of expenses. Dispensaries are said to come with a higher revenue which could turn into a good profit, but expenses need to be taken into account.

There is a whole host of variable and fixed expenses a business will incur throughout the month or year. Fixed expenses are predictable, and rarely change without advanced notice. Variable expenses change often, sometimes from month to month, and are rarely predictable. 

Variable Expenses

  • Repairs
  • Maintenance
  • Utilities
  • Credit Cards (if any)
  • Supplies or product

Fixed Expenses

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Software
  • Permits (these might be yearly, depending on the area)
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Accounting
  • Payroll

How much profit can a dispensary generate?

The profit varies from business to business even for dispensaries. Dispensaries and their owners take home a good paycheck, but location and clientele will make all the difference in predicting the eventual outcome of the business.

Dispensary Profit Margin

Three different sources (NStarFinance, AmericanCannabisCompany, Blaze) provide with a good overview of potential profit margins for a dispensary. 

Minimum profit margin for a dispensary = 12%

Maximum profit margin for a dispensary = 21%

Average profit margin for a dispensary = 15%

Ready to get to work planning your new Dispensary? Our Dispensary financial projections template makes it easy to generate the items this article covered in no time at all. Check out this video demo of the template and how it works!

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

About the Author

A professional writer for the past couple of years, Agata holds a passion for writing from early childhood. Specializing in writing informative articles and blogs on various topics, Agata's focus is on personal finance.

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