5 Tips for Creating a Winning Cannabis Retail License Application

As application processes become more demanding, Cresco Labs’ Mackenzie Ditch Wilcox offers these insights to help retailers successfully navigate the licensing gauntlet.

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With the rapid expansion of the legal cannabis industry, the competition for winning a desired retail license has significantly increased, and today, the application process is more demanding than ever. To help navigate this daunting process, here are five key tips for creating a winning retail license application.

1. Build a Strong Executive Team.

A critical component of any cannabis license application is establishing a great team of owners and officers. As licensing becomes more competitive, it is crucial that this team has the necessary experience and background to operate a successful cannabis retail operation. For medical retail applications, consider adding someone with pharmaceutical experience. Also, highlight individuals with business, finance, regulatory and sales experience (especially those individuals with experience in highly regulated industries) to show the governing agency that upon licensure, your establishment has the tools to succeed. Although it seems obvious, do not forget to highlight your team members with legal cannabis experience.

2. Highlight Your Team’s Community Involvement.

When developing relationships with and interviewing potential team members, consider asking questions like, “What have you done for the community?” and “Are you involved in any organizations, charities or community events?” By building a team of philanthropically minded individuals, you are showing that your business will positively impact the community beyond the cannabis industry.

3. Develop relationships.

To further enhance your application, develop strong relationships in the community in which you intend to operate by reaching out to people who can provide guidance into what the city or town is specifically looking for in a cannabis retailer.

Consider working with key stakeholders like local law enforcement, local business owners, local parent/teacher organizations, volunteer organizations and event planning groups.

4. Identify Real Estate.

One of the first steps in creating a successful cannabis retail application is securing property that is suitable for your needs and has proper zoning. When looking for property, make sure you are paying close attention to the setback requirements of the state and local jurisdiction. In addition, focus on specific locations and how they will best suit the needs of your patients and/or consumers. To boost your application, don’t forget key factors like proximity to public transit, parking availability and traffic considerations.

5. Prepare, Execute and Edit.

An application can take months to prepare. Because many components of the application are directly intertwined, it is critical to set deadlines at the beginning of the process to give your writing team enough time to edit and organize your application. Consider creating a style guide at the beginning of the process to ensure all responses are presented in the same tone, voice and structure. Many jurisdictions receive hundreds (if not thousands) of applications, and having a polished, professional application can help set yours apart from the crowd.

Mackenzie Ditch Wilcox, J.D., is counsel for multistate, vertically integrated cannabis company Cresco Labs and guides the license application process for the company, including licensing, regulatory incorporation, and application strategy.