It Could Cost $50,000 a Year to Operate a Medical Marijuana Dispensary

An annual fee for operating a pot selling store is going to be an expensive business move.

Marijuana photo via

Marijuana photo via

For those looking to sell a little green from a marijuana dispensary, it could take a lot of green to keep the doors open.

According to draft rules and regulations filed by the Department of Public Health on Friday, entrepreneurs that want to open a shop in Massachusetts to sell medical marijuana to qualifying patients would be subject to $50,000 in annual renewal and registration costs, as well as a yearly $500 registration fee for each of their employees, in order to run the business.

That price tag is on top of the $500,000 the state is requiring potential business owners to have on hand when they go to apply for a license to get approval from the DPH, the agency in charge of regulating medical marijuana sales and growing procedures. Beyond that, during the initial application process, interested dispensary owners would have to make a $1,500 payment for the first phase of consideration, and a $30,000 payment for the second phase, both of which are non-refundable.

Officials from the DPH said on Friday that the proposed fee structure was a move to create a fully-financed industry in Massachusetts, without relying on taxpayer dollars. “The program will be self-sustaining through fees on registered marijuana dispensaries and patients,” said Acting DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett. “The proposed patient registration fees are in line with other states and will be affordable. At the same time, dispensaries will be required to pay their fair share.”

The announcement about the fee structure came the same day that regulations put together by the DPH for the use and distribution of the drug officially went into effect. Those rules were approved by the state’s Public Health Council on May 8. The money harvested from the dispensary fees, officials said, would go towards paying operational costs, such as hiring staff and training inspectors to monitor the industry. The DPH will also develop an online system for registering and auditing patients and business owners, because the voter-approved law is “revenue neutral.”

Store operators wouldn’t be the only ones on the hook for annual costs, however. Patients would also be subject to some payments in order to obtain their drugs for medical purposes. According to the DPH draft regulations filed with the Secretary of Commonwealth on Friday, “qualified patients would pay a $50 annual registration fee, and patients who qualify for a hardship cultivation license would pay an additional $100 annual fee.” Patients with financial hardships could appeal the fees, but they would only be waived after approval from officials.

The draft fee regulations will now go through the public meeting and comment process before going into effect. A hearing is scheduled for Friday, June 14, at 1 p.m. at the DPH offices at 250 Washington St., in Boston.