How to Open a Pot Dispensary Blocks From the US Capitol

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Perhaps the most onerous part of Cuthriell's journey to marijuana sales was submitting an application of nearly 300 pages, including cash-flow statements, projected tax returns and promissory notes for the money he raised.

"I created manuals on how to smoke a bowl, how to pack and smoke cannabis [from a pipe], because that was part of my education material" for patients, Cuthriell said. "I created job descriptions for the people that were going to work there. I created all my financials."

Throughout the process, Cuthriell consulted an informal advisory board of people involved in the medical-marijuana industry in states where it has been legalized.

"I spent all my time talking to people in Colorado and California, insurance providers, cannabis growers, dispensary owners," Cuthriell said. "I was like, 'Here's what's happening in D.C., what can you teach me that I need to be successful in this?'"

He hired a general manager in Vanessa West, who worked in marijuana dispensaries in San Diego before coming to D.C. to run the Metropolitan Wellness Center. He didn't want to invest until marijuana growers began operating, because a dispensary without marijuana isn't much of a dispensary. But with two now approved, Cuthriell is getting ready to invite Department of Health officials to his office space to inspect and (he hopes) approve the dispensary to start operating.

"It was like, 'Boom.' Contractor. I know my floor plan - build it," Cuthriell said, of the moment the District's first marijuana cultivation center began growing pot. "We had to add on another room to our space, so we build a room, we had to do some electrical changes, we added some lighting, we painted the walls, we added some adjustments to our features."

The Metropolitan Wellness Center has cameras and bank-level security, Cuthriell said, but it's lacking one important thing: Customers. Until the Department of Health approves an application process for patients to use marijuana for medical purposes, Cuthriell will have no one to sell to. And with only two growers approved, he said supplies might be thin when his shop first opens.

"Every day we're asking the department when this is coming," Cuthriell said.

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