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How Long it Actually Takes to Get Your Business Licensed in Colorado

Starting a new cannabis company is all the rage at the moment – especially in Colorado. As I’ve said before, the cannabis industry is worth the risk. Investors and entrepreneurs are recognizing the cash cow that is marijuana and the number of new cannabis startups grows tremendously year after year.

Starting up in the cannabis industry is an exciting prospect for so many new businesses, and with a licensed attorney who knows the cannabis industry at your side, staying ahead of confusing laws, ever-changing licensing requirements, and required regulations, it’s never been easier!

But when I sit down with new clients looking for legal counsel and guidance to navigate the twisting, turning licensing process, they are most often surprised by the time commitment to turn their dream business into a reality.

The short answer is anywhere between 45 days and 12 months.

The long answer is that it very much depends on your business type, type of transaction, financial structure, operations process, and locality (to name a few). 

  1. If you haven’t been through the licensing process before or spent a large chunk of time studying the legislation and regulations governing the process, you’re likely to make mistakes, which only adds time and wastes money.

Here are some of the biggest time-sucks that could derail your startup timeline:

1. Expect a minimum of 45 days for that state license.

Colorado is a state that requires dual-licensing meaning you need to obtain a license from both the state and local governments. Your locality may hinder the process, and not all localities offer licenses (even in Colorado). 

The initial licensing application process can take anywhere from 45 to 90 days, but only if you’ve followed the licensing requirements to a T. 

Most applications have some nuance and require additional time to piece together the necessary documents before you can even submit an application. Once your application is processed, you may need to take additional steps requested by the state or your locality before you’re approved.

The 90-day expectation is for applying for new applications with the State of Colorado – if you are purchasing an existing licensed business, there is no. required time frame in which the State has to approve or deny the transaction, so if the deal or financing is complex, it could take much longer.

Another thing to consider is that in some localities, like Denver if your buildout and inspections haven’t been completed within 12 months of submitting your application, it could be administratively closed, causing you to lose your substantial application fee and requiring you to restart the process from scratch!

2. Getting paperwork together depends on you

The application requires submitting your business paperwork and completing a lot of forms (or have your trusted cannabis business attorney handle these for you)

How long this takes depends on you as the owner, along with any partners in the business, and your business structure. 

This includes legal affidavits which must be properly signed and executed. (Did you know I am a Notary Public?) You’ll also need to acquire copies of your operating agreement, tax license, and zoning permit(s) among others. Depending on your business structure, you may need to provide minutes from your corporate meetings for the last year as well.

Of course, if your financial structure is complex, you have multiple ownership interests, or even multiple financial institutions, this can add additional time for more scrutiny and thorough review of your numbers.

To add yet another thing to your plate, the Colorado application specifically states that paperwork to be submitted single-sided, on 8.5 x 11 inch paper. I say: don’t risk it!

3. Locations can add a lot more time

In order to complete your initial licensing application, you’ll need to have sorted out just about everything related to your retail, cultivation or manufacturing location.  Remember, not all localities allow marijuana business to operate within their borders, so a lot of initial homework will be necessary to scope out the perfect location.  Even if the locality does issue marijuana business licenses, many have distance requirements, meaning you cannot get a license for a location that is within a certain distance of other types of facilities like day cares, drug rehabs, schools, public libraries, etc.  This further limits your options for a good location.

In addition to providing a copy of your current lease or deed and blueprint of your floor plan, including a diagram showing the placement and direction of your security cameras so the MED can ensure all angles are monitored,

you may need to prepare for an in-person visit. 

Denver, and other localities, may require building, zoning, public health, and fire prevention inspections, which must each be scheduled according to the government’s timeline. Sometimes those inspections have to occur over and over until they are satisfied.

As you can see all that time can add up, but when you work an experienced attorney who understands the cannabis industry and the requirements here in Colorado, you can significantly save on time, ​​get things done right the first time, and have peace of mind that your operations will comply with the laws, rules and regulations controlling your business operations!

Contact me today to see how I can help your marijuana business start up faster!

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