States with limited marijuana licenses may have to expand

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 1,154 views 

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on Arkansas’ efforts to implement voter-approved medical marijuana. Link here for the first report.
Many states like Arkansas that put limits on the number of cultivation facilities and dispensaries have had to come back later to reconfigure their programs, said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in Washington, D.C.

For example, the New Jersey Department of Health announced last week it will begin accepting applications for six additional businesses that can grow, process and sell medical cannabis in that state, doubling the current number to 12.

“We look forward to the opening of six new dispensaries so we can ensure that all qualifying patients who want access to medicinal marijuana can have it,’’ New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in a statement on July 16.

“Due to the steps that (we) have taken since January, we have seen the addition of 10,000 new patients,” Murphy said of the state program that now has more than 26,000 patients, 1,000 caregivers and 700 physicians participating. “Accordingly, we have to expand the number of businesses who are growing product and serving patients.”

O’Keefe said New Jersey is experiencing a situation other states have faced with the rapid growth of medical pot use, such as supply shortages and soaring prices due to the lack of competition. Separating the licenses for growing, processing, and selling cannabis will help make many more types of products available to patients, she said.

In Arkansas, medical marijuana operators must apply for cultivation and dispensary licenses separately. However, nearly all the startup firms that received one of the highly-sought after cultivation also have applications for one of the 32 to dispensary licenses that will likely be awarded sometime in late 2019 to sell pharmacy-approved cannabis products to more than 5,100 patients with a state-approved license.

New data from Washington, D.C.-based New Frontier Data suggests that more than dozen states are expected pass new cannabis legalization measures before 2025. The pot think tank projected in April that the medical cannabis market in the U.S. will grow at an annual rate of 11.8% over the next seven years, from $5.1 billion in 2017 to $12.5 billion in 2025. The report also notes that four of those states are expected to open medical markets, bringing the nationally tally to 35 out of 50 states with intentions to sell cannabis products to patients with a qualifying illness or health condition.

Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi have all drafted legislation or will consider ballot initiatives to consider medical marijuana use. Next month, Louisiana is expected to introduce a hybrid model not recognized by the MPP and other industry groups as a true medical marijuana program.

“Across the globe, we have seen massive expansion as more than 50 countries are legalizing or decriminalizing cannabis. However, the U.S. continues to lead the way in cannabis consumption in legal medical and adult use markets,” said New Frontier CEO and Founder Giadha Aguirre De Carcer. “With a number of states expected to advance cannabis legalization measures in the next 24 months, more Americans will be able to access legal cannabis in the years to come, making this a watershed (moment).”