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A Snapshot Of America's Medical Marijuana Markets: Alaska

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A Snapshot Of America's Medical Marijuana Markets: Alaska

The medical marijuana market in Alaska is dwindling.

Of the state's roughly 800,000 residents, the Last Frontier has just 404 active medical cannabis cardholders, according to 2019 Division of Public Health data. In 2014, the program tallied over 1,700 patients.

Joshua Green, the co-founder of telemedicine brand Veriheal, told Benzinga that the similarities in Alaska's laws could play a part in the diminishing numbers.

"In Alaska, the medical and recreational markets are so closely aligned to where it hasn't allowed a medical-specific market to prosper," Green said.

Business Concerns Affect Much of the Supply Chain

Alaska's history of cannabis legalization is one of progression and regression.

In 1975, Alaska was the second state to decriminalize cannabis, only to recriminalize in 1990.

While criminalization of adult use has bounced back and forth, Alaska was more definitive with medical cannabis, passing Measure 8 in 1998. 

While the medical market fades, the adult use space has performed well since the state legalized it in 2014.

GThe state's adult use spending is projected to increase from $95 million in 2018 to $284 million in 2024, according to data from Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics. 

Medical market spending is expected to fall from $2.4 million to $1.4 million during the same period.

Aliza Sherman is an Alaska-based author, writing 12 books across various topics, including crowdsourcing, women business leadership and e-commerce. She's the author of the health and wellness book "Cannabis and CBD."

Sherman told Benzinga that various pain points exist along Alaska's cannabis supply chain.

"It is hard to make a blanket statement about the laws because it depends on who you are in the Alaska cannabis ecosystem," she said.

Cultivators concerned over taxes, including a $50-per-ounce charge, Sherman said. Growers cite difficulties paying the fee as prices fall across the state.

Sherman also highlighted retailers seeking a more straightforward path to on-site consumption. Alaska became the first state to pass such a measure in March 2019.

Cities have taken varying stances on the matter. The capital, Juneau, approved the measure in July 2019, while Anchorage rejected a similar proposal in April 2020.

The concerns for businesses aren't new. In 2018, operators and hopefuls alike bemoaned delays in licensing operations as well as regulatory hangups.

The concerns for the customer seem to be less problematic, Sherman said, citing adult-use laws coupled with cultivation rules that allow for up to six plants grown at home, capped at 12 per household.

Newer technology doesn't always make its way north, the author said. 

"It would be great to see more variety such as dissolvable tablets or breath strips with THC, as an example."

Even the dogs of the famed Iditarod sled race have become part of the cannabis discussion. Differing opinions between a top racer and the race's chief vet over treating the dogs with CBD highlights that cannabis may be of use to more than humans.

Alaska Allows Curbside Cannabis Pickup 

While the medical market may be on its way out in Alaska, the state did ensure that patients continued to receive their medicine during these trying times.

Alaska's cannabis businesses adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing curbside pickups for 120 days beginning April 21. 

Related Links:

Marijuana Now Legal In America's Wildest State

The Week In Cannabis: Davos, Aphria's Funding, Moves In Alaska, New York And Vermont

 

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