Chart: Maryland’s first-year medical marijuana sales approach $100 million

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Maryland’s slow-to-start medical marijuana industry made up for lost time, zooming toward $100 million in first-year sales.

Maryland brought in $95.4 million in dispensary sales between Dec. 1, 2017, and Nov. 30, 2018, averaging 21% monthly growth and peaking in November at $13.8 million.

That total surpassed first-year MMJ sales in Illinois, Massachusetts and New York – combined.

Several factors drove the hot start to Maryland’s MMJ program, namely:

  • A solid initial patient base of nearly 11,000 that grew 191% over seven months, finishing out the year with more than 50,000 certified patients. By comparison, Illinois and New York had fewer than 13,000 patients each after one year of sales.
  • Increased access. Maryland began sales with 10 dispensaries and ended the year with 71. Illinois began sales with fewer than 40 medical dispensaries and finished the year with 46. New York began with eight and Massachusetts just one – and the two states were slow to add more.
  • A list of qualifying conditions that includes chronic pain and a law that allows physicians to recommend MMJ in certain cases for off-list conditions. More than 1,000 medical providers in Maryland have registered to prescribe medical cannabis.
  • Flower sales are allowed. This is considered a driving factor of MMJ-market success, as flower traditionally has been the most popular form of cannabis and requires less cost-intensive processing than other products.

Despite a successful ending, the first year was not without challenges.

Cultivation licenses were delayed after claims that minority applicants were at a disadvantage because regulators failed to award them any – and minority applicants only received a handful of retail and processing licenses. This led to the state issuing an independent analysis of industry diversity.

Although a lawsuit filed against the state eventually was settled, the state’s supply of MMJ was squeezed at launch – causing dispensaries to run out of product just days after opening.

And for weeks, dispensaries were plagued by seed-to-sale software issues that caused outages, slowdowns and sales disruptions.

Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Maryland recorded more than 2 million transactions during the first year. The average transaction was $47.08.
  • The Medical Cannabis Commission’s most recent data indicates the state has 14 cultivators, 14 processors and five testing labs.
  • State regulators expect the patient base to grow to 200,000.

Maggie Cowee can be reached at