Can a Felon Own a Dispensary?

The majority of the country is in favor of a thriving legal cannabis industry. Thirty three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. The District of Columbia and 11 states have adopted laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Most other states are set to legalize cannabis in various forms as well. It remains illegal at the federal level.

Medical marijuana is being used for everything from post-traumatic stress disorder to HIV/AIDS.  Both recreational and medical marijuana can be purchased in the form of soda, beer, candy, powders, pizza, sweet potato pie, burritos, and ice cream.

If your sights are set on owning a dispensary—well—your work is cut out for you.  But, with perseverance through a mountain of regulations, and upfront capital you may be successful.

Profits generated by dispensaries and retail stores are projected to reach up to $8 billion this year. But, take note, you should not launch into this business as a get-rich-quick scheme.

This blog post covers whether a felon can own a dispensary.

  • What Is a Dispensary?
  • Understanding Some of The Regulations
  • Doors Of Opportunity
  • Seeking Remedy Through The Courts
  • Helpful Resources

What Is a Dispensary?

A cannabis dispensary is a physical store. It is regulated by the local and state government.

You can purchase cannabis there—the dried herb and other forms. Always make sure you purchase cannabis from a regulated dispensary in a state where it is legal.

Dispensaries can be for medical use or adult-use(recreational) use. Medical products are taxed differently than the recreational cannabis so the prices are usually lower.

Be aware of the following when you go to a medical dispensary:

  • Be fully documented regarding your ailments and health issues.
  • Have a doctor’s recommendation, your medical cannabis certification, and other documents required by your state.
  • Patients must be above 18 but certain exceptions are made for minors with debilitating illnesses.
  • You will have to register at the dispensary for regulatory and legal purposes.
  • A medical dispensary usually has a waiting room. This is for privacy between customers and budtenders.
  • Most purchases are tracked by medical dispensaries.
  • Medical dispensaries may allow you to examine and smell the buds.

Increasingly, the term “adult-use” dispensary is being used over the term recreational. Not everyone is using cannabis only for recreational use. An adult-use shop may also be called a ”dispensary.” As more states legalize recreational use, the language is moving away from the “medical” legislation.  To go to an adult-use(recreational) dispensary be aware of the following:

  • You must be at least 21.
  • You must present your valid state ID. When in doubt, bring your valid, unexpired passport.
  • Many stores have menus on their website and in the store. Menus are usually organized by product type. For example: flower, concentrate, edible, topical. The best cannabis doesn’t always have the highest price or the most THC.
  • There are great budtenders. An adult-use dispensary is set up more like a grab and go; Like at a convenience store.

Understanding Some Of The Regulations

The laws and regulations of owning a dispensary vary from state to state. The American Cannabis Company is a good resource where you can put in your state and find out about laws and licensing requirements.

In general, to own a dispensary the owner, investors, nor the license holders can have a felony conviction. The dispensary must be located more than 500-1000 feet away from schools, churches, or other locations. “Other locations” will vary from state to state.

You must comply with all safety regulations. You need an attorney.  The licenses and laws are forever changing. You are required to know them and comply with them in a timely manner.

Full compliance does not mean that the Feds can not come and shut you down. That can still happen. What you are doing is illegal on the federal level. You will need to decide if you want to subject yourself to that kind of potential contact with law enforcement.

Doors of Opportunity

You do have options to change or entirely destroy your felony criminal history. You need to seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney and be honest about your situation.

It would be wise for you to go through a reentry program. The completion of one demonstrates that you are rehabilitated. It can also connect you with much needed resources like housing and employment. Having completed one  and a show of remorse weigh heavily in court.

It would be wise to pull your background check and see what is on it. You might need to correct some wrong information. You can practice answers to any questions about your past. You might have to appear in person for your license.

“Fair chance licensing” reform is an initiative set forth to open pathways to professional licensing for people with records. This legislation allows you to sit for licenses in your chosen profession. The states stipulate that your crime  can not be related to the industry where you want to work. So, if your felony was drug related you may not be able to get the license to open a dispensary.

In California, adjustments are being made to remedy this. In 2014, Proposition 47 was passed. It reclassified all drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. Since then similar legislation has passed in Utah, Connecticut, Alaska, and Oklahoma. Because the states are bringing in so much revenue from legalizing cannabis, it is likely that other states will follow suit.

Seeking Remedy Through The Courts

You can get your record expunged or sealed. This means that your record is wiped clean as if you never committed the crime. You will be able to legally claim that you do not have a felony record. The exact process depends on the state in which you live.

Expunged means your records are destroyed. You may be able to get your record sealed. However, if you were to commit another crime or be in suspicion of a crime, you record could be unsealed. A criminal defense attorney may be required for this action.

You will need to demonstrate initiative—that you are actively attempting to get back into society. This can be done by going to counseling, advancing in your education, and being gainfully employed.

Again, having completed some type of re-entry program is extremely helpful toward self improvement. It is also a way of demonstrating to the court that you are rehabilitated. Felons who have committed multiple felonies or rape can not get their records expunged.

If you never committed the felony you can seek a pardon or a Certificate of  Actual Innocence. A pardon is a form of clemency. You are forgiven for your crime but you still have your felony record. You can be eligible for a presidential pardon five years after your sentence or release from confinement. A presidential pardon does not expunge your record.

A Certificate of Actual  Innocence says that you are innocent and that you should have never been arrested. It states that the criminal mark should have never existed in the first place. You can not get a Certificate of Actual Innocence in every state.

You may be able to get your felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. If you committed a wobbler felony, there is a chance it can be reduced to a misdemeanor.

All states do not have wobbler crimes. Florida is one of them. In Florida there are other criteria where you can get a felony crime reduced to a misdemeanor.

In The Case of Florida

In Florida you can have your record expunged or sealed. However, state and federal law enforcement agencies will still have access to your records. Judges have access to your sealed records online.

If you are a defendant you might have to reveal your felony conviction. For example, if you are  trying to become a court appointed guardian.

Many employers will still have access to your sealed or expunged records.

In Florida, expunging or sealing a record does not update onto federal or private databases. Private companies can purchase the information from the counties and state.

Helpful Resources

The Clean Slate Clearinghouse involves low-level convictions and cases with no convictions. It helps make people aware that they are eligible to get their record cleared.  It also eliminates the associated costs of attorneys and other fees. Pennsylvania has already enacted a clean slate law. Utah and Connecticut are set to follow suit as well as other states.

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