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Knowledge & Insights

Buying a Cannabis License vs. a Cannabis Business


The cannabis industry is a rapidly evolving sector that offers immense business opportunities. However, entering this industry can be challenging, especially when deciding whether to acquire a cannabis license or buy an established cannabis business. This comprehensive guide aims to provide insights into these two pathways, helping potential investors make informed decisions.

The Financial Implications in the Cannabis Industry

Cannabis businesses have the potential for high profitability, depending on multiple factors, including state cannabis laws and regulations, taxes, and location. However, these businesses often need help securing financial services due to federal banking restrictions.

Understanding the Cannabis Industry Landscape

The cannabis landscape is complex, dictated by varying regulations, market dynamics, and financial considerations. It remains a legal grey area in many jurisdictions, even for medicinal use. No two cannabis governing agencies have the same regulations.

Before considering acquiring a cannabis business license or an existing business, it’s crucial to understand the specific cannabis regulations in the targeted location. Align your expectations and business vision with what is legally permissible within these regulations.

Is Your Market Ready for New Entrants?

Before investing in a cannabis business, it is crucial to assess the readiness of your target market. While some emerging markets may present opportunities for new entrants, more mature markets often come with their own challenges. For instance, established medical cannabis markets can have a thriving black market, making it difficult for legal businesses to gain a foothold. Understanding the dynamics of your chosen market and evaluating the potential for growth and competition will inform your investment decisions.

Buying a Cannabis License vs. Buying a Cannabis Business

When considering investing in the cannabis industry, one must decide between buying a license or purchasing an existing business. Both options have their pros and cons, and the decision should align with your risk tolerance, experience, and growth plans. A license, in most cases, is merely a checkbox, granting permission to operate a cannabis business. However, it does not guarantee profitability. On the other hand, acquiring an established business provides a set of processes, people, and property that have already demonstrated value generation.

The Phenomenon of Secondary Market Sales

As the cannabis industry matures and companies expand, many original growers and retailers are selling their licenses through the secondary market, much like selling a house. This growing trend provides cannabis entrepreneurs with a new avenue to secure a valuable business permit, bypassing the state application process, which can be costly and time-consuming.

However, secondary market sales often involve more than just the paper license. Cannabis licenses are often tied to a specific building or a parcel of land. This is because states want to have appropriately zoned facilities before awarding licenses.

Factors Influencing the Price Tag of Cannabis Licenses

Several factors, including competition, zoning, and buffer zones influence the value of cannabis licenses. The less competition in a market, the more valuable a license is.

Zoning regulations also play a part. Many cities limit the location of cannabis operations to specific zones, making licenses in these zones more valuable. Some jurisdictions also implement buffer zones, limiting the number of retail outlets.

Considerations when Buying a Cannabis License

Acquiring a cannabis license isn’t as simple as it may seem. The process can be expensive and time-consuming, with no guarantee of success. However, buying a license in the secondary market can provide some certainty, even if it might mean overpaying.

When considering acquiring a cannabis license, aligning the license with your specific skill set or business, vision is crucial. This is because the license type will determine the business operations you can undertake.

Buying a Cannabis Business

On the other hand, buying an existing cannabis business presents different considerations. A business combines processes, people, and property that create value. The most valuable businesses are already profitable and have robust standard operating procedures, fantastic staff, and repeatable success.

Before buying a cannabis business, it’s essential to conduct thorough due diligence. This includes reviewing the business’s books and records, ensuring all permits are in good standing, meeting the team, and visiting the cultivation and processing facilities.

Valuation Strategies for Cannabis Industry M&A

Valuing a cannabis business is a critical aspect of the acquisition process. Many operators overvalue their businesses, expecting multiples that may not be justified. It is essential to approach valuation with a realistic perspective, considering factors such as revenue, profitability, growth potential, and market conditions. Engaging the services of experienced professionals, such as CPAs and business valuation experts, can help ensure an accurate assessment of a business’s worth. Additionally, conducting thorough due diligence is crucial to identify any hidden risks or liabilities that may impact the valuation.

Conducting Due Diligence: A Critical Step

Before finalizing any acquisition, conducting due diligence is essential to mitigate risks and ensure a successful investment. This process involves a comprehensive examination of the target business, evaluating financial records, operational procedures, compliance measures, and market positioning. It is crucial to assess the target business’s financial health, customer base, supply chain, and competitive landscape. Engaging legal and financial professionals with expertise in cannabis industry due diligence can help identify potential red flags and inform your investment decisions.

Budgeting for Your Cannabis Investment

Investing in the cannabis industry requires significant financial resources. Depending on the chosen vertical, the costs can vary significantly. Retail locations, for example, can require between $750,000 to $1.5 million for licensing and initial operations. Cultivation facilities may range from $500,000 to several million dollars, while manufacturing operations require substantial investments in equipment and infrastructure. It is crucial to budget accordingly, considering not only the initial costs but also ongoing operational expenses and working capital requirements.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, entering the cannabis industry by acquiring a cannabis license or buying an established business can be a rewarding yet challenging. Regardless of the pathway chosen, it’s crucial to do extensive research, understand the legal and financial implications, and conduct thorough due diligence. Remember, the cannabis industry is not just about the “green rush” but about building a sustainable, profitable, and compliant business.

For help with cannabis licensing, valuation due diligence, audits for your cannabis business, or any other cannabis-related inquiries, reach out to GreenGrowth CPAs, a professional firm that empowers clients with informed business decisions in the cannabis industry.

Request a Free Consultation & learn how GreenGrowth CPA’s can help your business grow.

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