How to Start an Online Marijuana Dispensary in Canada With 60% Less Budget Than a Brick-Mortar Store?

5 min read

  • In 2018, Canadians have spent $1.6 billion on legal Cannabis. 
  • The country has been experiencing a 10% increase each month in the number of patients signed up to receive medical cannabis. 
  • After the legalization of recreational cannabis, the sales at cannabis stores in the first half of 2019 reached more than $420 million. 

Are you getting closer to finding the business opportunity in an online marijuana dispensary or medical Cannabis Store? If not, please bear a few seconds with me. 

  • 16.5% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using cannabis in the first quarter of 2019. 
  • According to a forecast by CIBC, the Cannabis industry will be larger than the hard liquor market and as big as the wine market. 

I am sure, you must now have successfully found the opportunity to jump into the flourishing online cannabis industry in a most rewarding way.

Invest 4 minutes of your life on this blog and get important knowledge which will be really helpful to start an online marijuana dispensary. 

Is the selling of cannabis or marijuana legal in Canada?

Cannabis or its dry flowers which are called marijuana is legal in Canada for both medical and recreational purposes. On 17 October 2018, the federal government of Canada imposed the Cannabis Act that legalizes the cultivation, possession, acquisition, and consumption of cannabis and its by-products. 

However, the legalization comes with the regulations that govern home production, distribution, consumption areas, and sales time. We will discuss the Cannabis Act in detail later in this blog. 

How can you sell medical cannabis online? 

Needless to say that you would need proper infrastructure such as a shop to sell anything to customers. However, selling products in a legacy way requires huge investment, resources and time. It facilitates you to serve only a limited locality. Here is where an online cannabis mobile app and web portal come to the rescue. 

A cannabis mobile app or web portal costs significantly less than owning a brick-mortar store. It also speeds up the time-to-market and provides business visibility to understand how it is performing. Selling cannabis online does not limit the business terrain as you can offer your services to a large area or multiple locations. 

Who can sell medical cannabis online?

» Cannabis Growers:  If cannabis growers have resources to handle rapid deliveries, they can directly sell cannabis and its by-products to customers. They can also leverage the mobile app or web portal to find nationwide retailers easily and grow their business.  

» Cannabis Retailers:  Cannabis retailers can expand their customer base and enable their customers to order cannabis from the comfort of their home using a cannabis mobile app. 

» Cannabis Startups: For individuals having no prior footprint in the cannabis industry, a mobile app to build a customer base and sell cannabis online is the easiest, affordable and instant solution.  

I discussed 3 cannabis app ideas this week with Ontario and British Columbia-based entrepreneurs. They told me that the major reason why they are aiming to conquer the cannabis industry with the mobile app is the ability they can gain with a mobile app to focus on core business rather than managing ‘things’ associated with brick-mortar store management.  

How long does it take to develop a cannabis app? What would be the cost?  

In the case of app development, the required time influences the development cost. And the app feature set and technologies influence the development time. 

Meaning, the more complex features based on the latest technologies you wish to add to a mobile app, the more time it requires which ultimately increases the budget. 

This is the reason why the MVP approach is becoming more popular in the startup or even in an enterprise community. The MVP app includes only basic features which reduce time-to-market and development cost. Once familiar with the exact market needs, you can scale up the operations by integrating advanced app features. 

Generally, it takes my team 15-25 working days to develop and deliver the cannabis app or web portal, thanks to the expertise and rapid app development agile approach. 

What are the regulatory considerations to start an online marijuana dispensary?

The Cannabis Act which is imposed by the federal government of Canada consists of many regulations which you should adhere to avoid hefty fines. My team accommodates the compliance experts who can accompany you on your most crucial journey toward addressing regulations. 

With the help of one of the compliance experts, I am here listing out some of the cannabis laws in Canada. 

  • You need to acquire a licence from government authorities in order to cultivate & process cannabis, sell cannabis for medical purposes, and test & research with cannabis. 
  • A permit is also required for the import and export of cannabis. 
  • The cannabis package should have uniform plain colour and texture and should not have any branding or promotional elements on it as you must follow plain packaging. 
  • You must label the cannabis product with a mandatory health warning, cannabis symbol, and specific information of the product.  
  • You must sell cannabis to buyers aged 19 and older in Ontario. 

Here, it is worth mentioning that the government of Ontario has eliminated the lottery system to give licence for selling cannabis and begun issuing around 20 licenses a month.  

On which technologies top cannabis apps are working? 

After the federal government has legalized the use of cannabis in Canada, a sudden surge of cannabis mobile apps has been noticed. However, the market is still not intensified as many are still finding their way out of complex technologies and compliance requirements. 

  • Leafly 

Leafly is the most popular cannabis app and website in the world with over 15 million monthly visits and 40 million page views. Leafly app and website educate users about appropriate cannabis products for their medical conditions and direct them to the nearest cannabis store. It is headquartered in Seattle, USA. 

➤ Tech Stack of Leafly: 

➥ Frontend: Adobe Typekit 

➥ Server: Nginx 

➥ Framework: ASP.NET, Angular JS, React 

➥ Marketing: Hubspot 

➥ Analytics: New Relic, Google Tag Manager

  • MassRoots 

MassRoots is a different cannabis app. It is the largest and most active social network of the cannabis community with 775,000 users. To access the MassRoots app, the user must be older than 21. 

➤ Tech Stack of MassRoots: 

➥ Frontend: Google Web Fonts API, Angular Material 

➥ Server: PhusionPassenger 

➥ Framework: Ruby on Rail, Angular JS

➥ Customer Service: UserVoice

➥ Analytic: New Relic 

  • Eaze  

Launched in 2014, Eaze is the cannabis delivery company. It is nicknamed as the ‘Uber for Weed’ as it connects users with cannabis dispensaries, but does not grow or sell marijuana itself.  It performs around 120,000 deliveries per month to 250,000 users. 

➤ Tech Stack of Eaze: 

➥ Framework: React

➥ Server: Nginx 

➥ Optimization: Webpack 

➥ Marketing: Optimizely 

➥ Analytics: Heap

You must be wondering why I am sharing tech stacks! 

Because (you might have observed) there are multiple technologies and the appropriate technology selection defines app success and budget. Our recently developed telehealth app – Writi – with hand-picked technologies has been recognized by Collision Conference and this strengthens our belief in selecting the right technology.

If your development team can’t figure out technology, interoperability, and compliance, my healthcare app consultation team can help them build the proper foundation to support the app. 

I would like to share a case study here which talks about how our healthcare compliance experts helped a development firm to ensure ePHI security and develop a HIPAA compliant healthcare platform. 

My team also accommodates well-versed app developers and app designers in case you don’t have an in-house development team. So, let’s start a journey toward achieving an online cannabis store or any kind of cannabis app with full strength.

Let’s talk