If you live in one of the states where marijuana has been legalized, you probably already realize the demand for headshops. Even medical marijuana patients need paraphernalia, and stock can be limited at dispensaries. But since marijuana laws vary from one state to the next, opening a headshop involves hours of work on the front end to make sure you’re within all local regulations.
Head Shop Inventory
What exactly is a head shop? In the minds of many people, it's a store that carries paraphernalia related to smoking marijuana. This is true to a degree, although most head shops carry t-shirts, incense and other related products attractive to the weed-smoking community. Most head shops include a wide range of items for sale, including:
- Pipes and pipe screens
- Hollow books and other diversion safes
- Roach clips and rolling papers
- Herb grinders and baggies
While it's illegal to have a pipe along with marijuana in a non-legal state, head shops can legally sell these items to adults over 18. The way to keep pipes and other smoking paraphernalia legal is to sell them as tobacco smoking aids. Just as wine glasses and beer mugs don't have to be used with alcohol, these items don't have to aid in smoking weed. It's the actual use with marijuana that makes each of these items an illegal piece of property.
Research and Prepare
Before you take next steps, make sure you are fully aware of the ins and outs of operating a headshop in your state. Unlike an ice cream shop or boutique, headshops still undergo intense scrutiny. One of the best investments you can make early on is an attorney who can help you navigate the local laws. If you ever find your shop on shaky legal ground, you’ll also have legal help just one quick phone call away. Whether a state has legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, headshops are limited to selling only paraphernalia. Cannabis sales are relegated to highly-regulated dispensaries.
If you live in a state where marijuana is legal for recreational use, one of your biggest problems will be competition. Dispensaries and smoke shops cover the state, so it’s important to sell unique products that set your store apart from the rest. As of 2018, there are more than 500 stores registered with the State of Colorado, and that number is likely to continue to grow. If you live in a trailblazer state like Colorado, though, you won’t be fighting to navigate uncharted territory, as headshops in recently-legalized states must do. Shops have been operating in the state since 2014, which means a path to opening and operating that type of store has already been forged. You’ll need to get a retail license from the state and the city, which requires applying, attending a hearing and regularly undergoing inspections. Most importantly, in any recreational state, you’ll need to study and follow changes to all laws specific to operating a marijuana-related retail establishment.
Medical marijuana has been legalized in far more states, with the number growing each year. However, if you want to open a headshop in one of these states, it’s important to pay close attention to local “bong laws.” In Florida, for instance, a 2013 law banned the selling of drug paraphernalia. However, the 2016 passage of medical marijuana in the state has called that ban into question, although headshops still may find that they face tighter scrutiny than other types of retailers. In any medical marijuana state, you’ll continue to play the “for tobacco use only” game when displaying and discussing your products, rather than being honest about the real reason the customers in your store are looking at bongs and pipes.
- Offer deals on pipes and other products to draw customers into the store.
- Try to come up with a funny or clever name for your head shop like "Pipe Palace" or "The Smoke Stack." This name will be memorable and stick in the minds of customers.
Stephanie Faris is a novelist and business writer whose work has appeared on numerous small business blogs, including Zappos, GoDaddy, 99Designs, and the Intuit Small Business Blog. She worked for the State of Tennessee for 19 years, the latter six of which were spent as a supervisor. She has written about business for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2011.