How cannabis dispensaries navigate opening up shop – Morning Brew

Thirty-seven states so far have legalized medical cannabis in some manner—and Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia were the latest to okay recreational cannabis (for adults) in 2020 and 2021. That means more growth opportunities for dispensaries. And a host of new restrictions to maneuver opening up shop.

One of the toughest, cannabis companies told Retail Brew, is zoning—which varies by state and even by municipality. 

Proximity to schools, day cares, and churches is strictly controlled, explained Julie Winters, director of operations for Ayr Wellness, which handles everything from growing to selling cannabis. And it’s a lot of back and forth with different agencies, she added, to make sure their stores are in high-traffic areas that are easy to get to. 

“Eight to 10 years ago, what we used to be up against is [being put] in back alleys and saying, ‘This is where you can be,’” Winters said. “That’s difficult when you’re already dealing with the stigma of cannabis.”

While malls now are signaling more openness to dispensaries—especially as they try to fill empty storefronts—a lot of today’s legislation is predicated on how states approached the medical market, Frank Perullo, chief strategy officer of Ascend Wellness Holdings (AWH), told us. 

Perullo, for his part, actually prefers places with tighter restrictions, drawing up a comparison between Colorado and Massachusetts. In the former, he said, the state had “most of the power in licensing,” which led to a flood of shops on top of one another.

“We look to put our money into states where there are limited licenses and go really deep, not wide,” Perullo said. “We don’t try to plant a flag in lots of stuff.”


Ayr, which operates 60+ dispensaries across the US, is thinking more about getting in on the ground game. This year, it’s prioritizing growth efforts in Pennsylvania (it’s

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