By Eli McVey
Get ready for the next iteration of the green rush.
The marijuana industry is poised to grow by leaps and bounds in 2018, when at least eight of the 11 states that passed significant medical or recreational cannabis measures last year are expected to start sales.
That will lead to billions of dollars in additional annual revenues for the cannabis sector and create thousands of business opportunities.
Here’s an update on when these new markets are expected to launch, as of now:
MMJ has been legal in Montana since 2004, but a law passed in 2011 limited dispensaries to just three patients, effectively eliminating the state’s medical cannabis industry. Voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize and regulate commercial MMJ cultivation operations and dispensaries in November, and some dispensaries have already begun reopening their doors to customers.
Though Montana’s basic MMJ system has been allowed to relaunch, lawmakers are still drafting final rules for the new program, which probably won’t take effect until the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018.
Florida must begin implementing regulations, issuing ID cards and distributing business licenses for its new full-strength medical marijuana program by September.
Six licensed, vertically integrated businesses are already operating in Florida through the state’s CBD-focused program. Traditional MMJ could be ready as soon as dispensaries become licensed under the new program, meaning sales could start as early as September. However, it’s not clear if dispensaries will be ready to sell MMJ to patients immediately after receiving a license, and a launch window of Q4 2017 seems more likely.
Arkansas has postponed the rulemaking deadline for its emerging MMJ program. Officials now have until early May to finalize program rules instead of the original deadline of early March.
The deadline for the state to begin accepting applications for dispensaries and cultivation facilities also has been pushed back a month, to July 1. As a result, sales are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2018.
While the market should get off the ground sometime in 2018, legislation is still being drafted, so no further details are available.
Maine passed a bill in January giving lawmakers extra time to draft regulations for its recreational marijuana program, delaying the start of adult-use sales until February 2018. Under the original ballot initiative passed by voters in the 2016 election, the program would have launched as early as September 2017.
A bill to allow existing Maine dispensaries to sell to the recreational market while lawmakers draft adult-use program regulations will be proposed this year, though it’s not clear whether it has enough support to pass.
Massachusetts lawmakers delayed the start of adult-use sales even further, giving the state six more months to establish regulatory and licensing procedures. Rec stores were originally scheduled to open in January 2018, but that’s now been extended until June 2018.
By January 2018, Nevada must issue regulations and begin accepting applications for recreational businesses in the state, though only current MMJ license holders will be allowed to apply for a rec license.
Under the original plan, sales of recreational marijuana likely won’t begin until the second quarter of 2018. But regulators have proposed a plan that would allow rec sales through existing MMJ dispensaries as early as this July.
California’s adult-use market – set to be the largest in the nation – will begin accepting applications for recreational businesses on Jan. 1, 2018.
While sales could begin by the middle of 2018, delays in the rollout of the program are likely. Regulations are being drafted simultaneously for California’s massive MMJ market – previously governed by a patchwork of local laws and regulations – which may interfere with the implementation of the rec program.
Pennsylvania’s MMJ program appears to be moving along at a slightly quicker pace than Ohio’s, as the application window for the first phase of the licensing process just wrapped up on March 20.
During Phase 1, 27 dispensary licenses and 12 grower/processor licenses will be awarded. Growers/processors will have six months to get up and running from the date they win licenses, and dispensaries are expected to begin operating by mid-2018.
Final details regarding the application process for medical marijuana cultivators in Ohio will be in place by May, with license winners announced in September. Applications for dispensaries and processors will also become available in September. A lot remains to be done in Ohio, but if the rollout goes smoothly, dispensaries could be open by the third quarter of 2018.
Legislation passed last May paved the way for a viable, regulated MMJ program in Louisiana.
Two state-run universities – Louisiana State and Southern – will oversee all cultivation and processing of marijuana and hope to start planting by the end of 2017. By mid-2018, product should be available for sale in “pharmacies,” privately run retail businesses that sell MMJ and operate much like a traditional dispensary.
Eli McVey can be reached at [email protected]