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Access to recreational cannabis stores across the United States and Canada differs greatly by state and province after taking population into account.
Different state-by-state regulations have created some markets that offer far fewer retail choices for consumers.
Consider two states with approximately the same populations: Rhode Island and Montana.
Both states have about 1.1 million people.
Rhode Island, however, has only one adult-use retail cannabis store per 100,000 residents, based on March data.
By contrast, cannabis consumers in Montana have 37 recreational stores to shop from per 100,000 residents.
The data comes from the annual state-by-state survey and analysis published in the 2023 MJBiz Factbook.
The population-based analysis sheds fresh light on retail availability, or density, across a country.
So while California might have more than 1,000 recreational marijuana stores sprinkled throughout the state, it also has the country’s largest population, with roughly 39 million people.
As a result, Californians have only three adult-use stores to shop from per 100,000 residents.
Canadian adult-use cannabis store density doesn't reach Montana levels.
As in U.S. states, retail density varies widely by province.
According to the MJBizDaily Canadian retail tracker, the country has about 3,800 recreational stores as of August, which translates into approximately 10 stores per 100,000 residents.
Alberta might not have the most stores in Canada - that honor goes to the most-populous province, Ontario, which has roughly 15.5 million people.
Yet Alberta - with about 4.7 million people - consistently has the highest number of recreational cannabis stores per capita, with 21 per 100,000 residents.
By contrast, Quebec has almost double the population of Alberta.
But it has the fewest stores per capita of any Canadian province, with only one store per 100,000 residents.
Looking ahead, Quebec’s government-owned recreational cannabis retail monopoly - Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) - appears to have limited plans to open new outlets over the next several years.
It's hard to know what the perfect density for retail cannabis is, making it harder for store owners trying to find a sustainable business model going forward.
With too few retailers, customers' needs aren't met. With too many retailers, a glut ensues and causes store failures.
A recent study of Canadian stores shows that proximity might be a key to that equation.
The research found that people who lived less than about 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) from the closest regulated marijuana retailer were more likely to source cannabis from a legal store.
Experts agree that cannabis retailers should take into account store location and density during their planning.
Andrew Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.