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How to start your own medical marijuana collective?

There are a lot of practical and business issues to consider before starting a medical marijuana collective or dispensary, as with any for-profit or non-profit business. Moreover, the laws surrounding medicinal marijuana dispensaries are complex and have changed significantly in the last couple of years. MAUCRSA has significantly changed the rules and culture surrounding collectives or co-ops. The previous system of co-ops and collectives essentially expired with the passage of MAUCRSA, although some vestiges remain.

It is important to consult at length with a knowledgeable attorney before beginning your venture in order to map out an appropriate collective or co-op plan, complete with plans to satisfy the applicable laws and regulations. That being said, there are some general guidelines for starting a medical marijuana collective.

Dispensaries must be licensed under California state and local law. Under MAUCRSA, a Cannabis Cooperative Association can now be formed by three or more people, provided the majority are California residents. These are set up similar to non-cannabis agricultural cooperatives and can allow cultivation of up to four acres of land. Collectives must be limited to cultivators who hold a single Type 1 or Type 2 license. Cooperatives must file articles of incorporation with the state, including appropriate bylaws and identification of directors, and they must comply with other California law.

Qualified patients and their caregivers can continue to operate with limited criminal immunity without a state dispensary license, provided they otherwise comply with state and local law and do not conduct commercial cannabis activity that exceeds the strict qualified patient and primary caregiver limits. To avoid the licensing requirements for retail distribution, a caregiver can cultivate, transfer, etc., marijuana exclusively for the private medical purposes of a limited number of patients. Caregivers are limited to five specified qualified patients and a certain total amount of cannabis, and they cannot operate for-profit. Local licenses are likely required for cultivation.

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