How to Open a Dispensary (Part 1)

I’ve written a lot about my experience of opening a cannabis dispensary in California. Check out this post on finding the real estate, and this one on xxx

But, today I want to give you some tips on how to approach the landlord. 

My biggest secrets, tips, and insider information are found in our online course that Sarah and I teach, called Learn How To Get A Cannabis Permit, and if you’re really serious about understanding what it takes to open a dispensary in your state, you should sign up for it. It’s basically 3 hours of how to do it! When I first started researching the opportunities in cannabis, I would have paid $5000 for a course like ours! Ours costs a lot less and if you get 4 or 5 nuggets of wisdom, it’s well worth it.

I digress….

Back to how to open a dispensary. 

How to open a cannabis dispensary

When you approach the landlord, you first need to do your homework. You need to research who the landlord is. Your real estate broker can look it up for you, but if you’re not working with a broker, you can use a service like Property Shark, or if you have a friend that works in real estate, ask them to pull the Title. You could also look up the tax record of your local county's website. 

Here’s what it looks like Portland, Oregon.

In this case, I googled, “look up tax records in multnomah” which is the county name.

When you find the owner’s name, google them. See what comes up on LinkedIn. Do they even have a profile? Is it a person? Or a big corporation? 

If it’s a person, look them up on Facebook, or wherever you think they might be. 

What you’re looking for is any kind of background intelligence on them. Are they conservative? Are they old? How long have they had the property? What type of business was in the property before you? Does the previous type of tenant give you any clues? I.e. was it a bank? Banking is a conservative industry. They sign long leases because banks typically do not come and go, so chances are your landlord will be looking for a very long term lease, and if he’s used to conservative industries like financial services, chances are he’ll be quite adverse to marijuana.  

Make a list of the attributes you think your landlord has. If there is no LinkedIn profile, they could be old. 

Are they wealthy? Do they own other properties? Where do they personally reside?

Hmmm… wealthy, and old ... sounds like they could be really conservative. 

If they are, you had better practice role-playing with a friend on how the first phone call could go. 

This is how my first phone call went on a Saturday morning when I approached my landlord:

Ring-ring …. Ring-ring… 

Landlord: Hello, this is Mike.

Me: uh, hi Mike, my name is Belinda Smith, and I am interested in renting your building in Sorrento Valley.

Landlord: For what type of business?

Me: uh, a legal cannabis store.

Landlord: you know, you people, you keep calling me, and none of you get it … it’s Federally illegal! I mean, how will you pay the rent? 

Me: we’d write you a check each month.

Landlord: How will you do that when you can’t even open a bank account?

Me, stammering: uh … well, we’d send you a money order. 

Landlord, cutting me off: sure, that’s what they all say. Look, you guys are too risky, you have no idea what you’re doing, and the Feds could raid me at any time, and I could lose my building. No way.


And that was the start of my relationship with Mike, who turned about to be the nicest guy, and who gave me my first big break in my journey to opening a dispensary in San Diego.

I learned a lot from that call though. I learned:

  • Other people were vying for his space
  • He didn’t have a lot of tolerance for people who didn’t know the basics 
  • I needed to do my homework and be much more prepared before calls to the landlord. (I obviously was naive because I hadn’t even considered the banking portion of the business, yet here I was calling him, like some yahoo off the street)
  • He didn’t suffer fools, meaning, I was likely only going to get a very small opportunity and I needed to make a huge impression

How was I going to get this landlord to give me the time of day, and let me have his building?

Sarah and I go into a lot more details in our course on all the other things you need to do to open a dispensary, so again, if you’re serious about it, definitely consider taking our course, and learning from two pros who’ve done it and cashed out.  

And consider signing up for our emails. We send valuable info on a weekly basis. 

But again, I did get Mike to agree to lease his building to me, and it was really the start of something amazing in my life!

Do you find our cannabis industry information and permitting tips helpful?  Then sign up for our full course, packed with information about the industry, how we got our permits, and learn what you need to do to get a permit of your own!  


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