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A Snapshot Of America's Medical Marijuana Markets: The Recap

August 17, 2020 11:45 am
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When Benzinga began collecting snapshots of America's medical cannabis markets in the fall of 2019, we heard many stories and opinions from across the country.

The resiliency of the cannabis industry has been on full display, as have the shortcomings and highlights of several states.

While there is much about America's legal medical framework that falls short, several markets demonstrated the potential cannabis has on patients, business owners and state revenues alike.

Pennsylvania has been regarded as one of the most successful medical markets to date, registering over 116,00 patients in 2018, its first year. The lucrative market now has some lawmakers pushing for adult use laws.

Florida is another medical market that is on the rise, in particular, due to the state's eventual allowance of smokeable cannabis flower. The expanded list of consumption options has been a reported favorite at dispensaries, making up to 50% of products sold at specific locations.

While some predicted Florida could pass adult use laws on the backs of the medical market's success, efforts stalled and shifted until 2022.

Some thriving medical markets expanded access successfully as well. Michigan proved to be a behemoth on both the medical and adult use markets since launching recreational sales in 2019.

While the state is slated to generate over $1 billion in revenue from adult use sales, Michigan expects to see medical figures decline in the years to come, following a trend in most adult use states, including Alaska and Oregon.

Markets Struggle for Various Reasons

While various markets demonstrate the potential of medical cannabis, others demonstrate its multiple pitfalls.

A combination of regulations, taxes and competition from the unlicensed market serve as three of California's most substantial roadblocks, even though the state generated $2.5 billion in first-year adult use sales in 2018.

While the state continues to address such matters, its recent performance indicates that better days could be here for the market.

A restriction on access has been a steep hurdle in several states. They include Minnesota, which has just 18,500 active patients for a state of 5.6 million people.

The limited signups is attributed to, in part, high costs for medicine and limited product choices.

Other restrictive programs include Texas, which limits access to THC products to just a few conditions, with medicine prohibited from exceeding .5% THC. That said, a deep interest in CBD is growing in cities like the capital, Austin.

In some cases, state programs are so restrictive, such as Georgia's low-THC oil program, that an article was not deemed necessary at this time.

Laws weren't the only issue limiting patients, as dispensary access can be an issue as well.

They can include unexpected closures, like Fargo, North Dakota's only retail option.

Other examples can be larger-scale, like in Arkansas, where several license holders did not open stores, with rumors swirling that the permits would be flipped to other buyers before ever breaking ground on a location.

Standout Storylines

Market evolution is occurring across the country.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic became the unifying story for the second part of the series. While the virus sent shockwaves through the world, cannabis largely weathered the storm better than most markets.

As such, much of the stories to stand out featured the cannabis industry's potential, from the wide-open market taking shape in Oklahoma's medical space.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, cannabis advocates believe the plant could become the island's new growth market like pharmaceuticals were for so long.

Other signs of promise came in the form of opening markets, like Utah, which came online around the time its article was published.

In all, promise pushed past the pandemic, in most cases, to demonstrate the momentum of medical cannabis as of late.

What's Next

Several storylines wait to unfold across America's medical cannabis markets.

Election Night 2020 in November could see several states legalized medical or adult use cannabis. This prospect comes despite the setbacks posed by COVID-19.

Regardless of the election results, America looks poised to advance cannabis laws. That said, the advancement of adult-use laws could see the downfall of medical markets as the two become one, whether patients believe it is the right decision or not.

In all, the markets are rapidly evolving, leaving these snapshots as momentary glances into state markets that could look drastically different in the not too distant future.

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