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In May 2017, Iowa passed a law allowing for the possession and use of medical cannabis for individuals with certain qualifying conditions. This groundbreaking legislation made Iowa one of 38 states to legalize medical marijuana in some form.

Right now, the only way patients can legally obtain medical cannabis is via licensed dispensaries that are regulated by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). This kind of oversight ensures that patients receive quality medicine that adheres to safety standards.

If you’ve ever considered opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Iowa, this guide is for you. Below, we will provide an overview of the legal landscape of medical marijuana in Iowa and the steps you need to take to open a dispensary.


What is a Marijuana Dispensary?

A marijuana dispensary is a business that legally sells cannabis, cannabis-derived products, and other products related to the use of cannabis. These dispensaries are regulated by state and local laws and are only available in states where medical or recreational marijuana has been legalized.

At a cannabis dispensary, consumers can purchase a variety of products made from the cannabis plant, including:

  • Flower: Cannabis flower, also known as bud or weed, is the most popular form of marijuana. It can be smoked or vaporized in order to get the desired effect. Dispensaries often offer a variety of strains with different levels of THC and CBD content.
  • Weed Oil: Weed oil is an extract from marijuana plants with high concentrations of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids that can be consumed in various forms, such as vape cartridges or tinctures for oral consumption.
  • Edibles: Edibles are food items infused with either THC or CBD that are intended to be eaten for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Many dispensaries offer a wide selection of edibles like gummies, chocolates, brownies, and more.
  • Topicals: Cannabis topicals are topical products infused with cannabis extracts, such as lotions, balms, salves, bath bombs, etc., which offer localized relief from pain without producing any psychoactive effects.
  • Inhalers: Inhalers allow users to inhale small amounts of vaporized medical marijuana concentrates directly into their lungs for fast-acting relief from symptoms like nausea and anxiety. Dispensaries often carry pre-filled inhalers with either THC or CBD concentrates, depending on the desired therapeutic effects.
  • Vape Pens: Vape pens are battery-operated devices that heat cannabis concentrates in order to create a vapor that is then inhaled. Dispensaries often carry these products in various flavors and THC/CBD ratios depending on the desired effects.


Requirements To Get a Cannabis License In Iowa

If you’re considering opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Iowa, you must meet the requirements set by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). These include:

  • A single Iowa medical marijuana dispensary may hold 5 licenses at one time.
  • Dispensaries will be able to sell and dispense medical marijuana to patients registered by the Iowa Department of Public Health.
  • Dispensaries can be located anywhere in the state, based on geographic demands.
  • The IDPH shall license new cannabis dispensaries or relicense existing medical marijuana dispensaries by December 1st of each year.

In addition, the Iowa State Board of Pharmacy will award licenses through a competitive choice method. A competitive choice method means that the Board of Pharmacy will evaluate applications based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Access to major roadways in Iowa
  • The location of current patients registered in the state’s medical marijuana program
  • Iowa’s population density and demographics
  • Existing compliance resources for the State Board of Pharmacy

To ensure fairness and geographic diversity when licensing dispensaries, the Board has established 31 dispensary districts throughout Iowa. Each district is designated as either urban, rural, or a combination of the two, and a maximum of 60 licenses may be issued.


Where to Buy Marijuana in Iowa?

There are currently five legal medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of Iowa. These include:

  • Bud and Mary’s Dispensary-MedPharm in Sioux City
  • Iowa Cannabis Company West in Council Bluffs
  • Bud and Mary’s Dispensary-MedPharm in Windsor Heights
  • Iowa Cannabis Company East in Iowa City
  • Iowa Cannabis Company in Waterloo

The Bud and Mary’s dispensaries are open 11 am–6 pm on Monday, 10 am–6 pm from Tuesday through Friday, and 9 am–3 pm on Saturday.

The Iowa Cannabis Company locations are open from 10 am–6 pm all week.

All of these dispensaries offer a variety of products, including tinctures, vape cartridges, topicals, and inhalers. Patients are permitted to purchase up to 4.5 grams of THC every 90 days. However, patients with terminal conditions or with a waiver from their physician stating the need for more than the permitted limit

Customers who wish to place an order for in-store pickup or require more information about the products they carry can contact their local dispensary by phone or online before visiting the store.

Patients must also bring their medical marijuana card when visiting the dispensary in order to purchase any cannabis products.


What to Expect While Purchasing Medical Marijuana Products in Iowa?

When purchasing medical marijuana products in Iowa, you can expect a straightforward buying process. Customers are advised to call ahead or book an appointment before visiting the dispensary to ensure they have access to the necessary resources when they arrive. However, walk-ins are also accepted at most dispensaries.

For first-time visitors, a 15–30 minute initial consultation is required before they can purchase any of the products on offer. This consultation will involve the patient completing an intake form, which can be downloaded and filled out at home before visiting. During this consultation, a representative will review the patient’s medical card and government ID and then offer advice regarding the best type of product and dosage to suit their needs.

In addition to medical marijuana products, customers should expect excellent customer service from knowledgeable staff or budtenders, who are more than happy to answer any questions about the products they carry.


What Are the Products That Registered Patients and Caregivers Are Permitted to Possess Under the Law?

According to the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Program, registered patients and caregivers are permitted to possess THC-containing marijuana or cannabis products in the following forms:

  • Oral: Capsules, tablets, tinctures, liquids, and under-the-tongue applications
  • Topical: Ointments, gels, creams, transdermal patches, and lotions
  • Vaporizable concentrates and extracts
  • Nebulizable solutions that are administered into the lungs
  • Vaginal and rectal suppositories

The amount that a patient is permitted to possess at any one time will depend on their recommendation from their physician.

Patients are generally allowed to possess up to 4.5 grams of THC (or its equivalent) every 90 days. However, for those with terminal conditions or with a waiver from their physician stating the need for more than the permitted limit, this can be adjusted accordingly.


How Much Does an Iowa Marijuana Dispensary Make?

The profitability of owning and operating an Iowa marijuana dispensary varies depending on the size of the business and its location.

Generally speaking, average dispensaries in the United States make between $2.1 million to $3 million in gross revenue each year, with net profit margins ranging between 15% and 20%. This would mean that a dispensary making $2 million in annual revenue is likely to make a minimum of $240,000 gross profit.

The exact profitability of an Iowa dispensary also depends greatly on how cost-effective its operations and inventory management processes are. Keeping costs low while ensuring quality products can help boost net profits even further.

Read More: How To Renew Iowa Medical Marijuana License



Opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Iowa can be a lucrative business endeavor and is relatively straightforward once the necessary steps are taken. The process begins with obtaining proper licensing from the Iowa Department of Public Health before any products can be purchased or sold within the state. 

Now that you understand the process, you can make an informed decision about whether or not you should pursue opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Iowa.

There are countless opportunities for success due to the growing demand for cannabis products, but it is important to be mindful of the potential challenges that may arise, such as strict regulations and competition.

By Kif Team

The Kif Team has expert team of writers with a profound understanding of holistic medicine. We specialize in assisting individuals in obtaining their medical marijuana cards. We firmly believe in the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis for various health conditions. Our mission is to educate and enlighten as many people as possible about its potential advantages.

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