Rhode Island Cannabis License, Applications, & Laws

If you are hoping to get a Rhode Island cannabis license or apply to open a dispensary, you have come to the right place. My name is Rob, and I am the owner of Cannabis Consulting Nationwide and Cannabis Central, my legal, violation-free retail cannabis storefront in Washington.

You are likely hearing about Rhode Island cannabis legalization, or maybe you’ve been watching this state from afar, awaiting your opportunity to jump in.

The time is now, as the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation is looking for more dispensaries as of March 10, 2020. In the coming weeks, the state will reveal the application period for six new dispensaries in Rhode Island, also referred to as Compassion Centers. So, you need to be ready to act and submit your application in hopes of winning a license.

How to apply for a Rhode Island dispensary license

These compassion center licenses can be obtained by any not-for-profit operation. As we mentioned earlier, the cannabis operation in this state is run by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation. So, you’ll be working with them throughout the application process, and they’ll be the group to award 6 entrepreneurs a license.

Head over to their site for a detailed page of information on current openings,

Need help starting a cannabis business or dispensary in Rhode Island?

Reach out to me and I can answer any questions you have about starting a cannabis business, help write your application, or with any other aspect of this complex cannabis licensing process. The cannabis industry, especially in a relatively undeveloped market like Rhode Island, is not one you want to enter alone.

By having someone with real-world, grassroots experience starting a dispensary on your side, you can set yourself up for success and ensure the money you spend on your application has the best chance of resulting in an awarded license. Contact me here, or by email directly at [email protected]

How To Write A Successful Cannabis Business Plan

A successful start-up in this industry begins with a thoughtful, well-written cannabis business plan. But, this doesn’t mean you can just scribble some ideas on a napkin and hit the ground running. 

Sure, you can start with a casual plan just for your own sake. But investors, and more importantly, regulatory bodies, are going to want to see your business plan in a formal document in order to award you any funding or licensing.

This process doesn’t have to be complex or scary, however. I’ll walk you through the important steps in filling out your plan. But first, let’s cover what a business plan actually entails, and why it’s so crucial to your success.

What is a cannabis business plan?

A cannabis business plan is a document containing pertinent information on how you plan to start a successful business in the cannabis industry. 

Think of it as a roadmap for your business – it takes you through every avenue of the process. When someone reads it, they should have a good idea of why you are starting the business. And, how you plan to get the job done.

Why you need a cannabis business plan for your dispensary

There are two main reasons you need a well-written cannabis dispensary business plan – for your own benefit, as a detailed guide, and so that regulatory bodies, aka those awarding you a license, can see that you mean business.

For your own sake

Putting together a formal document with all of the elements of your business plan will make it easy to follow as you start building the business.

A lot of decisions you’ll have to make can simply be determined by looking at your business plan. And once you’re in the process of putting the pieces together, you can simply check the plan for what’s next.

This written plan will be a huge asset in your entrepreneurial journey. But you also need it for another reason – the application process.

For the application & licensing process

Undoubtedly, the regulatory body in your respective state will want to see a formal, written business plan for your retail cannabis storefront.

This is to weed out the lazy people who will apply for a cannabis license just to do it. If you fill out your cannabis business plan before the application process, actually applying for your license will be way easier. But, if you are seeking financial support, investors will want to see this document too.

You will have considered many of the questions and addresses many of the aspects of the licensing application on your business plan, so it’s just a matter of referencing the plan throughout the application process.

But, how do you write a business plan that actually sets you up for success? 

How to write a cannabis business plan actually works

Let’s go over the different parts of a business plan first. Not every single one of these sections needs to be on your plan at first, but eventually, you’ll want to touch on every one of these points.

Why you want to get into the cannabis industry

Start the plan with your “why”. Go at least a few levels deeper than “because the cannabis industry is a great opportunity”. 

Do you want to make a positive impact in your community? For me, one of the reasons I started Cannabis Central was because if cannabis was coming to Ellensburg, I wanted to make sure I was a part of it, so I could make sure everything was being done legitimately.

Executive summary

At its most simple, the executive summary should include what you plan to accomplish. But, the different components of this section should touch on why you want to get into the cannabis industry again, but this time using more facts and figures, rather than emotions.

Touch on who your business is (yourself, location, business name), what you will offer to customers, who your ideal customer is (create an avatar), info on competing dispensaries, your team, and finally, a financial summary.

Market Opportunity

In this section of your business, you can take a deep dive on the analytics behind the cannabis industry, particularly in your state, county, etc.

Look at market size, industry trends, growth potential, identify customer segments, and include some information on the regulatory board and legal landscape you’ll be working with.

Another thing you can cover in this section is the problem-solution your business is taking on. Go over which market you plan on serving, and explain the problem they face that you have the ability to solve. For example, if your city only has one dispensary and it’s not conveniently located for a majority of residents, you can solve that problem with a closer storefront. 

Marketing & Positioning

The marketing & positioning section of your cannabis business plan should be a comprehensive section going over how you are going to get people in your doors. Cover these five things:

  • PositioningWho is your product for? How is your brand unique?
  • Product What products are you serving to the market? 
  • Price – Where are you on the pricing scale? Loss-leader, high-price, somewhere in the middle?
  • Promotion – How are you going to make people aware of your products?
  • Place – Where will you be located? Are you a retail storefront or delivery service?

Operations Plan

The operations plan should cover how you plan to get things done. Here, you’ll talk about your location, any POS technology you’ll be implementing, where you’ll be sourcing inventory, how you’ll hire people, and any security measures you’ll have in place.

Compliance Plan

This isn’t necessarily a required section, but having a section dedicated to compliance will help ensure you remain violation-free, and it will show your regulatory board you mean business.

Here, you can talk about how you’ll create a culture that meets the compliance requirements for operation in your respective state.

Your Team

In this section, you want to mention any advisory members, part-owners, and staff that are going to help you accomplish your cannabis business plan. Include biographies on each key member. These should highlight why they’re a valuable member of your team.

If you already have investors, you can mention them here as well. This will serve as social proof to other potential investors.

Financial Plan

This is one of the most important aspects of your cannabis business plan. This is where you’ll talk about where you’ll get the money to accomplish the things you’re setting out to do, and how quickly you’ll become profitable.

You’ll need to focus on profit and cash flow, as these are two separate metrics that investors and your regulatory agency want to see. Include revenue forecasts, financing, operating costs, budget, and P/L statements.

Need help writing your retail cannabis business plan?

If you are thinking of writing your business plan, or are stuck on a certain aspect, get in touch with me and I can help you out. I have real-life experience writing business plans that work, as my retail storefront Cannabis Central is still operating violation-free over 5 years later.

This is an incredibly important starting point, and can really make or break your success in this industry. The whole reason I started Cannabis Consulting Nationwide was to help people just like you with these crucial steps.

The first hour of my time is always free, and I am happy to help.

Applying For An Illinois Cannabis License? Here Is Cannabis Consulting Nationwide’s Advice

If you are thinking about applying for an Illinois cannabis license, you are in the right place. I have helped a number of businesses with the application process for adult-use cannabis in the great state of Illinois.

As many of you know by now, January 1, 2020, was the first day of adult-use cannabis retail sales in Illinois. The sales numbers were staggering, no surprise there, and Illinois is just getting started. 

The stores which are open now, effective January 1, were themselves fast-tracked as they were previously and currently medical marijuana stores and much like Colorado, they flipped a switch on 35 medical outlets and began the sale of “recreational cannabis”.

I despise the term “recreational” as it pertains to legal cannabis, but that’s a story for another day. Now, here is a quick summary of the work I’ve been doing recently with three different businesses in Illinois. 

If this is a path you are interested in following, there are a few things you should consider. I’ll outline them below. If after reading these considerations you are still set on venturing into this complicated industry, let’s chat.

What you need to consider before applying for an Illinois cannabis license

As it currently stands, the window for adult-use cannabis applications in Illinois is open. Many early applicants have already filed all their paperwork, so you may be a bit behind the curve. But it is not too late, as the winners won’t be released until May of this year. Before you start filling out your application, consider these points:

Do you qualify for Illinois’ cannabis social equity program?

The cannabis industry has a bit of an ugly past when it comes to how people who possessed or consumed the plant were treated. Specifically, communities of color were disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

Because of this, the state of Illinois is doing their part to right previous wrongs with their social equity program. 20% of available points are based on social equity status! Here are the qualifications:

  • 51% of owners must live or have lived in a disproportionately affected area.
  • 51% of owners must have an expugnable cannabis offense
  • At least 10 employees must satisfy the previous two qualifications

If you are entering this industry, it’s on you to do your part to create opportunities for families, communities, and regions that were harmed by the war on drugs. But, if you or your team were affected negatively, you may have a leg up on the competition.

Can you get financing for your dispensary?

One of the toughest parts about starting a retail cannabis storefront is finding financing. We have an entire article talking about ways to acquire banking for your cannabis business.

If you don’t have access to startup funds, or even a way to store your cash and pay your bills, you shouldn’t consider applying for an Illinois cannabis license. You can reach out to me, Rob, if this is a particular area of your business plan you are struggling with, as I went through this myself.

Do you have any experience in the cannabis or retail industry?

Illinois is going to choose applicants that have the best chance of success. So, if you have any experience in the cannabis industry, or even with a successful retail business in general, that is going to go a long ways.

If you don’t have any experience, don’t worry. I was the exact opposite of the type of person that you would think would want to open an adult-use cannabis store, yet here I am, more than 5 years later.

It won’t make or break your success, as long as you check the last box of our considerations – passion.

Do you have passion to start a cannabis business?

At the end of the day, this will be one of your most trying, difficult ventures yet. This industry is still figuring itself out, and it won’t be easy.

Your “why” for getting into this industry needs to be big enough to help you get through the tough days. Because they will come.

But if you have true passion for helping people in your community, then you should definitely apply for an Illinois cannabis license.

Now, here is some of the work I’ve done in Illinois.

CCN Lends A Helping Hand To 3 Retail Cannabis Applicants In Illinois

The deadline for new applicants in the newly formed adult-use cannabis system was January 2, 2020. I had the great fortune to work alongside three (3) clients all vying for one of 75 new licenses to be decided upon by the State of Illinois sometime in May of this year. 

In two (2) of these situations, I applied as a Principal Officer. This was an honor to be sure but it came with an enormous amount of responsibility and, given our lawsuit crazy society we currently live in, an extra measure of exposure as well. It means I am applying along with the applicants/owners themselves.

I have no ownership in said companies nor will I have any fiduciary rights or responsibilities but nevertheless, the real applicants are trying to present the most appealing package possible to the State of Illinois.

By having an individual thoroughly experienced in the world of legal retail cannabis operation, they are saying to the state in effect, “we are endeavoring to do the right thing”. 

If these two applicants are fortunate enough to be chosen, then contractually I have insisted on being named as Compliance Officer in the companies going forward.

This is necessary in my view to protect myself and my company, Cannabis Consulting Nationwide. If they follow my counsel and heed my advice in the never-ending effort(s) to stay compliant, then I will stay on as their Compliance Officer.

If not, I have an exit strategy to legally extricate myself from a situation I am uncomfortable with moving ahead with and being a part of. 

I also was asked by the above-referenced applicants to help by reviewing and in a few cases, actually writing elements of the application, known as Exhibits.

The range and scope of information and plans the State of Illinois was inquiring about was amazing. I felt I was a tremendous help in the tone as well as the content of the required writings contained with the many exhibits, all required elements of the entire application.

In the third application, I was not asked to be a Principal Officer applicant, but I was much more involved in the writing(s) required as part of the application. I wrote in their entirety or very nearly all of the following Exhibits:

  • Floor Plan
  • Community Engagement
  • Diversity Plan
  • Operating Plan
  • Business Plan

I contributed in other areas pf the application but the above were my purview and frankly, they were right in my “wheelhouse”. 

Are You Thinking About Applying For A Retail Cannabis License In Your State?

If you are applying in your state to garner a license to retail cannabis, please contact a qualified consultant to help. I have been licensed and open and operating in Washington State since August 2014.

I have been successful and very proudly, infraction and violation-free. I have the boots on the ground, relevant experience many states are looking for when applying for cannabis retail licenses.

There is much value being placed on the presence of experienced cannabis operators, operators that is who have been in operating in a legal, compliance-driven regulatory framework. 

There are very few individuals in the entire US who can claim the length of legal, violation-free operation in the heavily regulated retail cannabis industry that I possess and present via CCN.

So, do not be fooled, and do not rush to hire someone for the sheer sake of having experience in your corner. Hire someone who can help you in a real sense. Vet any cannabis consultant you encounter thoroughly.

My clients will attest to the fact I am a roll your sleeves up kinda guy who is the real deal and knows the ins and outs, the good and bad, the ups and downs of this still controversial and misunderstood business world that is legal cannabis.

If you want someone with actual, useable experience on your side to help you obtain a retail cannabis license or any phase of starting your own cannabis business, reach out to me here.

Good luck to you all. Happy New Year!

Rob Hendrix, owner
Cannabis Central of Ellensburg
Cannabis Consulting Nationwide
509-833-5556 (cell)

What To Do If You Have Issues Paying The Cannabis Excise Tax

This is Rob Hendrix. I am the owner of Cannabis Central of Ellensburg, a retail cannabis shop in Central Washington State. I have been open and operating, successfully and violation-free, since August 2014. I have had a wonderful relationship with the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) here in the Evergreen State and recently, my good record and great relationship paid dividends. 

Today, I want to share with you an issue we ran into recently that does a good job showcasing just how complicated the cannabis industry is, and how high the implications are if you make mistakes.

The Monthly Cannabis Excise Tax Remittance and Payment Procedure

My admin manager has been with me for more than three (3) years, having come to Cannabis Central via the pharmacy industry. She was a wonderful addition. Among her other duties, she is responsible for remitting our excise tax collected and sending it to the Marijuana Tax Unit of the State of Washington every month.

Usually, I prefer to send off the taxes earlier in the month although it is not due until the 20th of the month following the month completed. We have been perfect in more than 60 consecutive months insofar as handling the excise tax collected and tax remitted. It was like clockwork and I never worried about this particular aspect of managing Cannabis Central. 

You can imagine my shock and horror at an email I received 12/31/2019 that indicated I was in fact late with November’s excise tax remittance. Further, I was reminded in this email that this tardiness was in fact a violation of both WAC 314-55-089 and WAC 314-55-092. I had inadvertently broken the law. Also mentioned in this email was a statement to the effect, “Please pay ASAP to avoid having to start the process of suspending your license”.

Now, in all honesty, we had paid the taxes but the WAC(s) referenced above had to do with the accompanying form that was missing. But in the eyes of the LCB and the Marijuana Tax Collection Unit, the fact we were missing the necessary form was as bad as the taxes themselves not being remitted.

How We Quickly Fixed The Issue At Cannabis Central

We jumped on the problem immediately upon receiving the alarming email. We called and emailed the Marijuana Tax Unit and also emailed, called, and texted our Enforcement Officer with the LCB as quickly as possible. In addition, we scanned and emailed all supporting documentation to the Marijuana Tax Unit and our Enforcement Officer in a show of good faith that proved the taxes themselves had been paid days prior to the December 20 deadline. After all, we were just missing the accompanying form.

My message here is simple; we reacted with an “all hands on deck” approach and attitude. We humbly approached the responsible parties to demonstrate our acceptance of the seriousness of the situation and most importantly, we took responsibility for it 100%. We did not attempt to blame others. We made no excuses and we braced for the consequences of our actions which could have included a 2% late penalty, amounting to a potential $700 fine.

We received word a day later that due in no small part to our perfect track record of excise tax remittance and the total absence of infractions and/or violations of any kind, the people in charge agreed we deserved a break. We were informed of their decision not to penalize Cannabis Central in this matter. I took this as a great compliment and I let it be known to all concerned how appreciative we all were. Whew!

What Can You Take From This Story For Your Retail Cannabis Store?

The lesson here is to be rule followers. Treat your regulatory agency and the men and women in it as partners, not as adversaries. Communicate, in fact, over-communicate with your enforcement folks. A good reputation is hard to create and it’s easy to lose. Build a great reputation, sustain it, work at it and never abuse it or over-rely upon it. Stay hungry and humble in running your business and this definitely should include your attitude towards your enforcement agency in your state. 

Happy New Year to all. If you’re considering entering this still controversial and misunderstood industry, contact me, Rob Hendrix, owner, Cannabis Consulting Nationwide. We can help with state-legal retail cannabis set up, applications, vetting, build-out, hiring best practices, inventory and cash management, and most importantly, compliance. I am currently working with clients in Missouri and Illinois.

You can contact me here with any questions, or email me directly at [email protected] and I’ll get back to you quickly!

Dispensary Branding: Who Is Your Cannabis Store For?

Dispensary branding is something that many entrepreneurs go about all wrong. This crucial aspect of starting your retail cannabis business will make or break your success in the industry. It can be easy to assume that you know how best to brand and position your storefront. 

But, there are a lot of factors at play here, including your customer demographic, what nearby dispensaries are doing, and the image you as the business owner want to portray.

I’ll explain in depth why this is such an important area of your business, and then I’ll show you some examples of the best branding in the cannabis industry today.

What is branding?

Let’s quickly define “branding” in general.

Branding is the act of shaping your brand. It is what you represent, your values, and who you guys are as a company. Lots of things go into your branding, including:

  • Store name
  • Brand logo
  • Store design
  • Voice on social media
  • How you conduct business (your marketing)

Your branding is what makes you, you. It’s what separates your dispensary from the dispensary down the street. Without branding, every store would look the same, and sell to the same demographic. Now, let’s discuss the importance of dispensary branding.

Why does dispensary branding matter so much?

Dispensary branding just as important as branding any other type of business. You need to be congruent with your branding at every level of your business. This means that your online presence/marketing, your dispensary design, and the interactions between you and your employees with your customers all need to be congruent.

One of the biggest reasons I preach branding so much is because you can get really specific with who you are talking to in your advertising and messaging. If you want your brand to represent young, social, hip people, you can communicate in their language and gear towards their interests. Or, if you want to speak to an older, more professional demographic, you can take that stance. It’s all about resonating with your market.

Know your market in the cannabis industry!

Let me paint a picture for you.

Let’s say there are two dispensaries near you. 

One is called “The Pot Shop”, and you walk in to be greeted by loud Rastafarian music, and graffiti-covered walls. The employees are grungy, and appear to have no sort of dress code.

The other dispensary is called “Patient Care Collective”. You walk into a quiet, neatly designed building that is indistinguishable from a medical office. The employees greet you, and they are neatly dressed in matching uniforms that are consistent with the rest of the shop. The dispensary is well lit, and has a very modern look. 

Which one are you more likely to go to?

The answer likely varies based on what type of customer you are. If you are a college student looking for cheap cannabis, you probably would prefer the more chill, laid back store.

But, if you are an older medical patient with a serious illness looking for legitimate care, you’ll choose the more professional setting. 

That is why it’s important for you to do your research when branding your dispensary. 

Use your branding to stand out in crowded cities

Think about the shops near you. If they are all geared towards the “stoner stereotype” you can really set yourself apart and resonate with a whole different market by entering as the “professional medical care” facility.

You need to do your research to figure out what type of cannabis users are going to be shopping with you and cater to their preferences. If you are in a small college town with tons of retail cannabis stores geared towards the “college crowd”, you can really set yourself apart by branding your dispensary to a different crowd.

Need help defining your brand?

If you are struggling with branding your dispensary, or any other aspect of starting or running a retail cannabis shop, let’s chat. My name is Rob Hendrix, and I am the owner of Cannabis Central, my licensed storefront in Washington State. We have been profitable, and more importantly, violation-free, for over five years. I started Cannabis Consulting Nationwide because I know how frustrating it can be on this wild journey. I help other entrepreneurs in this industry get their stores up and running, and keep them running!

If you have any questions about any part of the industry, please, don’t hesitate to reach out. I am happy to spend an hour on the phone with you for free, just learning about your business and figuring out a way to help you reach your potential. You can contact me here. Look forward to hearing from you!