Launching Your New York Dispensary: How to Become Operational in 2023

Mack Bush
May 12, 2023

New York legalized recreational cannabis in 2021, but the process of opening dispensaries in the state has been slow. As of May 2023, New York has approved 165 provisional dispensary licenses. If you’re one of the lucky few who obtained a license, congratulations!

Are you ready to harness your unique opportunity to make your mark on the New York cannabis industry? Here’s what you need to know about opening a dispensary in New York that will be profitable for years to come.

How Profitable is a New York Dispensary?

New York is one of the hottest cannabis markets in the U.S. right now. As more and more dispensaries open, we’re seeing how much owners stand to benefit from legalization.

Some experts estimate that the average New York dispensary could generate up to $1.8 million in profit from about $3 million in revenue. A recent survey found that 15% of dispensaries in the United States made an annual revenue of $500,000 to $1 million, and over 25% said they made over $1 million per year.

Your profits may depend on the size of your dispensary. One estimate says that you can make an average of $974 per square foot of dispensary space per year in New York. That means it’s important to make use of your space as effectively as possible while still designing an attractive cannabis dispensary.

Statue of Liberty in New York where cannabis dispensaries are opening.

Current Regulations for New York Dispensaries

There are hundreds of regulations that cannabis dispensaries in New York must follow. The state’s lengthy guide about laws and regulations is a must-read for anyone opening a New York dispensary.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most notable marijuana restrictions, laws, and regulations in New York.

Cannabis Limits for Customers

Adults 21+ can buy or possess up to 3 ounces (85 grams) of cannabis flower and up to 24 grams of cannabis concentrates. The state’s definition of concentrates include oils, tinctures, edibles, and vapes.

Location Restrictions for New York Dispensaries

Cannabis dispensaries with a physical location must follow zoning laws established by the state and the area where it’s located. Your dispensary’s location must be approved by the state as part of your dispensary’s site plan.

A dispensary can’t be on the same road and within 500 feet of a school or community facility. In addition, a marijuana dispensary cannot be on the same street and within 200 feet of a church, synagogue, mosque, or other building that’s used exclusively as a “house of worship.”

Cannabis dispensaries cannot be located within a certain radius of another dispensary. If the city or town has more than 20,000 people, a new dispensary must be at least 1,000 feet away from one that is currently operating. In a city of less than 20,000 people, this radius is extended to 2,000 feet.

Staff Training Laws for New York Cannabis Dispensaries

Before you open your dispensary, you need to hire the best staff possible. You’ll start by finding an Employee in Charge (basically a dispensary manager). This person will manage the day-to-day operations of your dispensary. They’re in charge of submitting reports to the Office of Cannabis Management for the state as well.

The Employee in Charge will manage your budtenders and other staff, updating the government when new employees are hired or old ones leave. Employees must be over 18, and only workers 21+ can interact with customers, transport products, and make deliveries.

A budtender at a New York dispensary is cashing out a customer.

New York dispensaries must create a training manual that’s available to all staff members that covers the procedures and regulations of your business. Some examples of what your employees need to be taught include:

  • Opening and closing procedures
  • Emergency procedures
  • Information about the products you sell
  • Customer privacy and confidentiality requirements
  • Alcohol-free, drug-free, and smoking-free workplace rules

Dispensary owners are also required to educate their workers on cannabis, either using their own training manual or a worker certification program that’s authorized by the state. Some things your employees will need to know include:

  • How cannabis affects the body
  • How to recognize signs of cannabis impairment
  • How to safely store marijuana products
  • State and federal laws and regulations
  • Civil and criminal penalties for cannabis use
  • How to dispose of cannabis products
  • Risks of cannabis use

Training your budtenders can be a daunting task. To seamlessly onboard your team and track compliance documents, leverage a cannabis-specific HCM platform like KayaPush.

Security Requirements for New York Dispensaries

New York dispensaries need to implement a security plan that deters theft of cannabis products and cash while keeping your budtenders safe.

Dispensaries in New York are also required to have 24-hour commercial-grade security systems. The system must have:

  • A perimeter alarm that communicates internally and to a third-party monitoring station
  • Video surveillance cameras on all parts of the dispensary that contain cannabis products, all points of entry or exit, in the parking lot, and in many other parts of the dispensary

Dispensary owners in New York can hire armed security officers if they wish, but they’re not required to. 

A security guard at the entrance of a New York dispensary.

If you have any more questions about how to open a dispensary in New York, the state created a comprehensive guide detailing the regulations you must follow. We recommend that you read the whole thing before you start the process of opening your New York dispensary.

How to Design Your New York Dispensary

Once you’ve dealt with all of the logistics and regulations surrounding how to open a cannabis dispensary in New York, it’s time to start envisioning what your cannabis shop will look like. Here are some things to consider during the design process.

Branding Your New York Dispensary

How will your New York dispensary be different from other stores in the area? What do you have to offer that will keep customers coming back? These are important questions that you’ll need to strongly consider before starting the design process.

You should come up with a store name, color scheme, logo, and interior layout that targets the type of customers you want. Younger shoppers may prefer a bright, colorful decor, while seniors might want their dispensary to be authoritative and clean.Once you’ve come up with your brand identity, you can use it as a guide for designing your dispensary.

A New York dispensary with products on display and lots of greenery.


Most dispensaries have an exterior sign that makes it easier to find. Your sign’s design is important, as it’s probably the only thing people will see as they walk or drive by.

However, there are some regulations regarding signs for New York dispensaries. Your sign cannot include a logo or any images, including depicting cannabis, cannabis products, or imagery of smoking or vaping. 

Signs can only include:

  • Your business or trade name
  • Location
  • Contact information
  • Business type (“adult-use cannabis dispensary” or a similar phrase)

You should work with a designer to create a sign that communicates your brand and unique offerings, without breaking the signage laws.

Flow of Traffic

While designing your New York cannabis dispensary, consider how customers will be walking through the store. Your layout should be logical and avoid congestion. You want to make it easy for customers to browse and purchase products at their own pace. If your dispensary will be more immersive, with product displays and information pamphlets, ensure that there is still a clear path to the register for your regulars who want to get in and out quickly. 

Customer Experience

Overall, the most important thing about your dispensary’s design is whether it appeals to your target audience. You want to design a place that they absolutely love. They should feel at home and at ease in your store. Whether you choose to create a calm oasis or a lively marketplace, your dispensary’s design should make your desired customers want to return over and over again.

Final Thoughts on Launching Your New York Dispensary

From the New York-specific laws and regulations to training your team and dispensary design, you now have the basics of how to open a dispensary in New York. We wish you the best of luck as you continue to prepare for opening day! 

If you need help creating your training manual, doing payroll, or scheduling your employees, we can help you during every step of the way, from when you’re brainstorming ideas for your dispensary to when it makes its first million. Schedule a free demo of our software to learn more! 

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May 2023


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