Best States to Expand a Cannabis Business

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Contributor, Benzinga
April 11, 2023

Once a taboo subject, the medicinal and recreational uses of the cannabis plant are quickly becoming mainstream. As more states legalize cannabis, entrepreneurs are finding that they can expand their businesses to new markets with increasing ease. Despite being legal in many states, the laws and regulations differ significantly. Some states have become friendly to the cannabis industry, offering incentives and reducing regulations to make it easier for businesses to thrive. Eight states stand out from the others. 

Brief Background on the Status of the Cannabis Industry

Recreational marijuana is legal in 21 states. People can purchase marijuana products legally from licensed facilities that are regulated by the state. But using marijuana in public may still be against the law, and there may be restrictions on possessing large amounts of marijuana. It's also worth mentioning that the federal government still considers the sale of marijuana, driving under the influence of marijuana and possessing marijuana on federal land illegal — even in states where it's legal for recreational use.

The legalization of cannabis has been a long process that began in 1996 when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Since then, more states have followed suit with their own laws. 

Top 8 States to Expand Your Cannabis Business

Legalization in new states has created numerous opportunities for businesses looking to expand in the cannabis sector as a multi-state operator. Read on to learn about the top eight states to expand your cannabis business in and why. 


In 2010, Arizona joined the ranks of progressive states and legalized medical marijuana for those with a qualifying condition. The state’s cannabis market has been growing ever since. In 2020, voters approved Proposition 207, which made recreational marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. With this change, the state opened its doors to additional business opportunities in the cannabis industry. 

Arizona is home to a large percentage of the population in the United States and boasts an increasingly competitive market for cannabis goods and services. The state has exprecienced significant growth in sales since legalization. Arizona is also one of few states that has passed legislation allowing consumers to buy cannabis products online with delivery to their homes, making it even more appealing for businesses looking to get into the cannabis industry.


California is one of the most progressive states regarding cannabis use. Known for its relaxed attitude and acceptance of marijuana, California has been at the forefront of cannabis legalization since 1996 when medical marijuana was first legalized in the state. In 2016, recreational use was also legalized. 

The California market has been thriving since then, with many dispensaries and businesses operating legally. But with so much competition in the market, businesses must find ways to differentiate themselves from their rivals in order to succeed. This could include offering unique strains or special discounts on products; providing comprehensive customer service; or creating a unique atmosphere that sets them apart. To succeed, businesses must also educate their customers about the benefits of using cannabis responsibly and understand its legality.


Cannabis entrepreneurs can take advantage of the state’s progressive stance on marijuana to grow, process, package and distribute their products without fearing legal repercussions. It’s important to note that because Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, the market is competitive. 

Colorado has implemented tax structures and initiatives to incentivize cannabis entrepreneurs and encourage investment in the industry. 

The state's commitment to its residents’ well-being is reflected in its close oversight. It requires extensive product testing on all marijuana products sold in the state, including laboratory testing for:

  • potency levels
  • contaminants
  • residual solvents
  • terpene content
  • pesticide use
  • foreign materials 

This ensures marijuana products are safe to consume and protects consumers from potential risks associated with consuming untested products. 

Colorado’s progressive laws help cannabis entrepreneurs to succeed in their endeavors and protect them from prosecution or civil penalties. Business owners can focus on providing quality cannabis products while growing their businesses responsibly. Despite the compeition, there are plenty of incentives making it a state worth considering for expansion. 


In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Since then, the state has continued to make strides in the cannabis industry. It legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 1998 and for recreational use in 2014. The recreational law took effect on July 1, 2015, and legal sales started on Jan. 1, 2017, once licensed stores were able to begin operations.

Today, Oregon remains a favorable option for entrepreneurs interested in the cannabis industry, particularly for those looking to open a dispensary. With application and licensing fees totaling $5,000 ($250 for an application and $4,750 for a license), it is one of the most affordable states to open a dispensary. 


On average, retailers pull in anywhere from $3 million to $5 million dollars every day from cannabis sales in Massachusetts. 

Despite the sales opportunities, entrepreneurs looking to expand their cannabis business into Massachusetts should take a few things into consideration. The state requires all retail outlets to be licensed both by the Cannabis Control Commission and local municipalities, and on-site consumption or sampling of products is prohibited under existing laws. 

Massachusetts has also implemented stringent quality-control measures to ensure consumers have access only to safe and reliable products. Companies must submit product samples for testing before distribution. Any samples that fail inspection are immediately destroyed. This helps ensure that only the highest-quality products reach consumers and upholds established health standards. 


Michigan legalized marijuana for recreational use in November 2018 and began retail sales in December 2019. The state's low tax rates make it an attractive destination for cannabis dispensary owners looking to maximize their profits. Michigan imposes a 10% retail excise tax and a 6% state sales tax, which is lower than the rates in many other states.

Cannabis business owners looking to open a dispensary in Michigan should know the potential challenges they may face because of market saturation. With approximately 500 retail dispensaries operating in the state, new entrants to the market may struggle to stand out. Product prices are also declining because of the influx of new dispensaries opening almost daily. This is partly because of a $6,000 license application fee and the fact that Michigan does not have a limit on the number of dispensaries in the state. 

Despite the competition, it's still a great state for a cannabis business to expand. 

New Jersey

New Jersey is home to over 9 million people, making it one of the most populous states in the country. Its large population and liberal stance on cannabis means that there is a growing demand for products and services in the market, making it an attractive investment opportunity for businesses looking to expand into new markets. The state legalized recreational marijuana in 2022, so the legal framework for dispensaries is still in the works. 

The New Jersey medical cannabis industry has seen tremendous growth over the last decade, with more than 250 dispensaries open across the state and more opening up each year as demand increases. The expansion of legal marijuana sales has also been accompanied by an influx of investment and jobs into New Jersey’s economy, with thousands of positions being created in the retail and cultivation sectors alone. 

With its population, economic incentives and progressive attitude toward cannabis, New Jersey looks set to remain at the forefront of America's marijuana industry for years to come. The newly legalized market for cannabis presents an opportunity for businesses looking to establish themselves early in the industry and gain a competitive edge. 


Washington state's cannabis industry operates under a unique regulatory framework. The state has limited the number of retail licenses to 556 statewide, creating one of the most exclusive cannabis markets in the country. While this may seem like a barrier to entry for entrepreneurs, it has actually led to a more competitive and profitable landscape.

One of the major benefits of Washington's capped retail licenses is that it prevents oversaturation of the market. With fewer competitors, businesses can operate more efficiently and profitably without being forced to compete against an overwhelming number of other retailers. The state's strict regulations on cannabis businesses help maintain quality standards and ensure consumer safety.

Washington is also one of the cheapest places to obtain a cannabis license. But the low cost of licensing comes with a catch. It's harder to secure a license in Washington because of the limited number available. Prospective business owners must have a solid business plan and demonstrate their ability to run a successful cannabis business to obtain a license.

Why These States are Favorable for Cannabis Expansion

The eight states considered the best for expanding a cannabis business were chosen based on factors that make them favorable for entrepreneurs in the industry. 

Market Size and Demand

One of the most attractive aspects of these states for cannabis business expansion is the sheer size and potential of their markets. For instance, states like California and Oregon have larger populations and more liberal attitudes toward cannabis when compared to other states, creating an environment in which high demand for legal cannabis products can be met. 

Regulatory Framework

No two states are created equal when it comes to cannabis regulation. Depending on the state, cannabis businesses can find vastly different frameworks governing their operations. Certain states, such as Colorado and California, have embraced a more liberal approach to cannabis business regulations, allowing entrepreneurs to realize their dreams with fewer legal obstacles. States that are less friendly toward cannabis-related businesses tend to have stricter laws in place — often prohibiting certain activities or making them difficult to carry out.

Licensing and Permit Requirements

The states on the list were selected because of their ease of license approval or low application and fee cost. Some states provide certain incentives for companies interested in applying for licenses. For instance, Colorado offers expedited license processing while Washington has adopted an open market approach that allows businesses to operate without having to go through a lengthy approval process.

Economic and Social Factors

The economic and social factors of these states are also beneficial when it comes to starting a cannabis business. Colorado and Oregon feature relatively low tax rates compared to other states that have legalized marijuana. Each state also has specific laws that protect employees working in the cannabis industry from discrimination based on their occupation. This creates a more supportive environment for those hoping to start a business in this field.

Ease of Market Entry

Each state offers its own advantages for ease of entry, whether that is a streamlined process for obtaining licenses, lower taxes or fees on products or services related to cannabis sales, relaxed rules on advertising or marketing within the industry or access to potential investors or partners who can help launch a business successfully. 


Businesses in these states benefit from lower tax rates than those in other states, allowing for more flexibility and increased profitability. These states also have supportive regulations and an established customer base that is essential for any successful venture. 

For instance, California is one of the most sought-after markets in the U.S. when it comes to cannabis businesses because of its favorable tax laws and large consumer base. Washington has become increasingly popular with entrepreneurs thanks to its high demand and aggressive tax incentives. Meanwhile, Colorado offers one of the lowest taxes on marijuana products while Oregon offers a hospitable environment with relaxed restrictions. 

Finding the Right State for Your Cannabis Business Expansion

The eight states covered have proven to be some of the best options for those looking to expand their businesses. The favorable economic and social factors, ease of market entry, low taxes and reasonable licensing and permit requirements make these states attractive for entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. Keep in mind that the laws surrounding cannabis are constantly changing, and what may be a favorable state now could change in the future. It's essential to stay up to date on state regulations and market trends to ensure long-term success.

Frequently Asked Questions


What state is the most profitable for cannabis businesses?


Because of its large population and cannabis market, California, has long been the most profitable state for cannabis businesses.


What is the most profitable niche of the cannabis industry?


The most profitable niche of the cannabis industry is likely edibles, concentrates and topicals. These products generate higher margins than flower products and often require less labor to process.


What state has the biggest cannabis market?


California has the largest legal cannabis market in the United States with over $1 billion in annual sales. The state’s population and progressive regulations have created a favorable environment for both consumers and businesses, making California a sought-after jurisdiction for many entrepreneurs interested in entering this burgeoning industry. California boasts more licensed dispensaries than any other state.