Chart: Number of customers served per day by medical marijuana dispensaries, recreational shops

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By Eli McVey

Medical marijuana dispensaries and recreational stores serve, on average, approximately 100 customers per day, according to data in the newly released Marijuana Business Factbook 2017.

But this figure can vary widely based on the market each retailer serves and a state’s level of regulation.

Retailers that serve the recreational market – either exclusively or in addition to the medical market – have a larger potential customer base, leading to a higher number of customers.

Retailers in markets lacking statewide regulatory systems as of early 2017 – including California, Michigan and Montana – served about half as many customers as those in the recreational market. A lack of control over the number of dispensaries operating in these “gray market” states creates a stiff competitive environment.

While California and Michigan represent the top two states in the nation in terms of total MMJ patients, their patient bases are spread across a large number of dispensaries – limiting the number of customers each retailer can serve.

It should be noted that California, Michigan and Montana have approved statewide medical cannabis regulations and are currently setting up their regulatory programs.

Dispensaries in regulated medical markets – which operate under clearly defined regulations set at the state level – fall just below rec stores in terms of the number of customers served per day.

Although patient counts in regulated medical markets – such as Illinois or New York – tend to be lower, the number of dispensaries allowed to operate in these states is often strictly capped.

This concentrates a relatively small number of patients around a limited number of retailers, resulting in more foot traffic for each dispensary.

In Rhode Island, for example, just three dispensaries are authorized to serve more than 16,000 patients throughout the state.

And while the difference in the average number of customers served per day between recreational stores and medical dispensaries appears relatively minimal, over the course of a year it can add up.

For example, the average rec store serves about 5,000 more customers per year than a dispensary in the regulated medical market, which could equate to roughly $300,000 in annual sales.

Eli McVey can be reached at