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New Market Update: 6 States Looking to Implement Their Cannabis Programs

December 17, 2015

Change comes quickly in the cannabis industry, making it difficult to keep up on the latest markets struggling to take shape. We put together this regular roundup series that will include the latest information and updates on each new legal state or country's transition from prohibition to legal implementation. We'll cover medical, recreational, and everywhere in between.

As the global community begins to see the upside of legalization, we’re hoping to see more and more places show up on this list. For now, check out the latest on these six markets that are hoping to debut soon.



The Lowdown:

Alaska was one of the first states to make legalization efforts — in 1975, it legalized the private use and possession of cannabis in one’s own home. In 2014, Alaska went a step further to legalize recreational use, marking the first time that the state will allow any kind of legal cannabis store or access point.

The Latest:

Alaska was on track to finalize its recreational cannabis regulations for the November 24th deadline, but the regulations haven't been made public yet, as they still need to be reviewed by Alaska’s Department of Law. Alaska will be the first state to officially allow onsite consumption at licensed locations, and thus far the applicants are required to be Alaska residents who physically live in the state, although a proposed amendment would allow for up to 12.5 percent outside investment. The Marijuana Control Board will begin accepting licensing applications in February, with approved licensees to be announced in May.



The Lowdown:

Florida’s history with cannabis has been muddy and frustrating. After a botched attempt to legalize marijuana for medical use, the proposed Florida constitutional amendment failed by less than 2 percent of the vote and the state’s would-be patients settled for a “Charlotte’s Web” law signed by Governor Rick Scott that allows the use of low-THC, high-CBD products.

The Latest:

Florida’s timeline fell off track during the year, but it's back on the radar with the recent announcement of the five coveted licensed nurseries that were chosen to cultivate the low-THC products.

Although the ball is finally rolling for the Charlotte’s Web law, there may be more changes for Florida coming soon. United For Care, the campaign behind Amendment 2, is back with a vengeance in support of a new amendment — you can sign the petition here to help get this amendment on the 2016 ballot. Additionally, a joint effort is coming from the House and Senate in the form of a bill entitled “Experimental Treatments for Terminal Conditions,” which would essentially create a medical marijuana distribution chain for patients with terminal illnesses.



The Lowdown:

Hawaii legalized medical marijuana in 2000, but the only option for patients was to grow their own cannabis plants. However, major changes to Hawaii's medical marijuana program came about in 2015. First, Hawaii’s Medical Use of Marijuana program was transferred from the Department of Safety to the Department of Health. In July, Governor David Ige adopted comprehensive new regulations, as well as legalized the creation of a new infrastructure of medical marijuana dispensaries on the islands.

The Latest:

There are eight licenses available for the state's new dispensary program. Each license allows for two cultivation sites and two dispensaries, bringing the total number of dispensaries to 16. The application period will be brief, between January 11th and January 29th, with dispensaries tentatively scheduled to open between July 15th and November 1st, 2016. The latest news from the Hawaii Department of Health is a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a valid, reliable Seed-to-Sale tracking system, much like the system in place for Washington State’s recreational market.



The Lowdown:

Illinois created the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program in 2013, but it proved to be a daunting task to set up a legitimate, well-regulated market from the ground up. There were countless delays and setbacks during the initial setup process, but patients and would-be dispensaries persevered.

The Latest:

After a sprint to the finish line, Illinois dispensaries finally opened doors to patients on November 9th. Dispensaries only carried a limited supply of product due to a bottleneck from a lack of cultivators actively harvesting, but the results are in and they are beautiful. 3,600 patients have been registered, of which 1,713 were able to visit a licensed dispensary during the first month, and in the first month of sales, there's already been nearly $57,000 collected from the 7 percent wholesale alone.

17 dispensaries are currently in operation, but the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Registration can’t hand out the licenses fast enough, and dispensary doors are opening every day. The Medical Cannabis Pilot Program is set to expire in 2017, but legislators may extend the timeline once they see the numbers.



The Lowdown:

Maryland tried to implement a medical marijuana law in 2013, but the law proved to be so restrictive that not a single patient was able to register. Governor Martin O’Malley revised the law in 2014 to expand the qualifying conditions and outline regulations for a medical dispensary system, and he also passed a statewide cannabis decriminalization measure.

The Latest:

After two and a half years, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission accepted applications for the new medical marijuana market through the end of November. There will be 15 cultivation center licenses and 94 dispensary licenses available, as well as an as-yet unknown number of processing licenses. In total, there were 811 applications for dispensaries, 146 applications for growers, and 124 applications for processors. The approved organizations were set to be announced in January 2016, but due to the high volume of applications, the issuing of licenses will be delayed until further notice.



The Lowdown:

New York made waves by (FINALLY) legalizing medical marijuana, but the language of the law has many New Yorkers scratching their heads. First of all, the only products that will be allowed in the new medical market are oils, edibles, pills, and tinctures. Cannabis flower will not be allowed, nor will the smoking of cannabis be permitted (although there’s no word on how that stipulation will be enforced). A total of 10 qualifying medical conditions have been approved, and although doctors are not yet able to certify patients, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed a piece of legislation that will give expedited access to high-need patients.

The Latest:

New York’s Department of Health Services sifted through 43 applicants to select five total organizations that will be responsible for cultivating, processing, and distributing cannabis at 20 locations across the state. The program is set to debut on January 5, 2016, but will those organizations have product lined up and ready to open their doors? Columbia Care, a company that is already firmly established in four other markets, is optimistic that they’ll be ready to open their doors come January.

That’s the word on the latest states that are breaking into the cannabis industry. We’ll keep you updated as more progress emerges!

Lisa Rough's Bio Image
Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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