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Expected Delays in Cannabis Licensing

What to Expect when you are Expecting – A critical look into cannabis licensing timelines from submittal to award. Delays in Cannabis Licensing are common. 

Typical Timelines for Cannabis Applications 

What are the typical Delays in Cannabis Licensing from when an applicant submits an application to the time the Applicant is awarded a permit?  This article will discuss what to expect during the grading period and strategies Applicants can follow to optimize the waiting time.

Historical Delays in Cannabis Licensing

Timelines: No matter what the timelines published by the State are, Delays in Cannabis Licensing are very common.  Try to practice patience, forgetting entirely about the submission and work on other areas within the Applicant’s control.  The information below outlines six states that have delayed their deadlines for awarding permits to cultivation, manufacture, or dispense cannabis.

Delays in Cannabis Licensing timeline


Illinois Adult-Use Dispensary Awarding | Round 1 = 7 days and counting

  • Expected Deadline for Awarding New Cannabis Dispensary permits: April 30, 2020
  • The actual date Permit Awarded: Extended to Unknown Date due to COVID-19 Pandemic


Arkansas Dispensary Submission – 490 days delayed

  • Expected Deadline for Awarding Dispensary Permits: September 18, 2017
  • The actual date Permit Awarded: January 21, 2019

West Virginia 

West Virginia Submission – Delayed for 250 days and counting 

  • Expected Deadline for Awarding Permits: July 1, 2019
  • The actual date Permit Awarded: Extended to Unknown Date due to COVID-19 Pandemic


Missouri Grower/ Processor / Dispensary Submission – Delayed for 27 days

  • Expected Deadline for Awarding Permits: December 27, 2020
  • The actual date Permit Awarded: January 23, 2020


Maryland Grower / Processor Submission | Round 3 = Delayed for 163 Days and Counting

  • Expected Deadline for Awarding Permits: September 26, 2019, then October 7, 2019, then placed on Hold
  • The actual date Permit Awarded: On Hold due to temporary restraining order due to technical submission issues

New Jersey 

New Jersey Grower/ Processor / Dispensary Submission | Round 3 = 66 Days and Counting

  • Expected Deadline for Awarding Permits: December 2019 delayed to the Summer of 2020 due to File Corruption Issues
  • The actual date of Permit Awarded: Unknown  

Potential Reasons for Delays in Cannabis Licensing

After the submission, the Government reviews each application to ensure the Applicant provides all required documents.  If an item of the application is missing, the Government will provide Applicants with a deficiency notice that gives the Applicant a short window to resubmit with all required items.  Deficiency notices require publishing to the main point of contact, usually by mail and e-mail.Application Deficiencies

In almost 30% of submissions Quantum 9 has worked on, the State has made baseless deficiency claims. At first, the team assumed missing documents were the cause. But then we realized the issue was with corruption.  Not the corruption one would expect, but that of technology.  Below are three common issues causing delays in cannabis licensing in which the government requests information the Applicant has already submitted. 

File Corrupted 

This can occur by one of the ancient dinosaur computers the State is working with to review the flash drive for completion.  Uploading files to a state submission software such as Complia (Now NIC) or Accela can also cause corruption errors.  Quantum 9 suggests always converting files to .pdf format before uploading documents.  Also, make sure Applicants try to open the file or try downloading the file on a Mac and PC to ensure the files are readable. 

Page Corruption 

Adobe products allow users to organize pages within a file.  Users can add Microsoft Word, .pdf, and images (.jpeg) into the same file and then save the file to a single .pdf.  During the saving process, files can cause conversion issues making some pages unreadable or corrupting the entire file.  Many times, the State will request an entirely new file if a single page appears corrupted. 

User Error 

Since some applications require the submittal of a flash drive, expect someone along the way to have inserted the flash drive into their computer, then pulled the flash drive out of the device without ejecting the flash drive properly.  In most cases, this will not corrupt the file, but then again, States use terminals and devices that lack many of the flash drive protecting procedures now standard on most laptops.  

Think of a deficiency as a good thing. As long as the Applicant monitors their emails, a deficiency means the submission grading is moving along.  In most states, Applicants will have ten (10) to fourteen (14) days to respond to any deficiency, no matter how large. 

Idle Hands

Idle Hands: Idle hands are the devil’s playground.  Applicants should engage a post-license project manager to handle everything from zoning to communicating with the State.  However, there are many items that Applicants can focus on, such as branding, company messaging, and product development.  If Applicants don’t want to build their brand, they can license one from an existing operator, which typically includes training.

In conclusion, expect delays. Between acts of God, lobbying pressure, technical issues, and State personnel issues, delays in cannabis licensing are now part of the process.  

Michael Mayes

About Michael Mayes

Michael Mayes is the founder and CEO of Quantum 9, Inc., a Chicago, IL-based cannabis consulting firm. We specialize in getting high net worth individuals and private equity cannabis business licenses to cultivate, manufacture and dispense marijuana. We have over 50 marijuana consultants that work for the company, and we have practiced in 12 countries. Our areas of expertise include permit acquisition, team building, employee training planning, and process planning. We help clients fully maximize the potential of any cannabis cultivation, processing, and dispensary business.

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