Chart of the Week: 25-Month Average Wait Time From Legalization to Sales

By Becky Olson

The wheels of state government can grind slowly, especially when it comes to medical marijuana implementation.

In regulated states where dispensaries are open for business, it took an average of 25 months for the very first licensed dispensary to open after the state’s MMJ bill or ballot passed.

However, many regulated states don’t have any dispensaries open for business yet. Would-be dispensaries in those states have been waiting an average of 20 months now to be able to open their doors. They are probably still looking at another 4-6 months of waiting, at best, before launch.

Implementation timelines vary significantly from state to state. And states often experience delays beyond what was originally outlined in the law or expected by the public, sometimes by a matter of years.

Oregon, New Mexico, and Maine were the quickest to move from legalization to opening days. Conversely, the District of Columbia, Delaware, and Rhode Island languish at the bottom of the list with timelines of three-four years. In Delaware’s case, nearly four years have passed; its sole legislated dispensary isn’t expected to open until next month.

Nevada also expects to see its first dispensary open next month. Opening day estimates for Illinois, New Hampshire, and Maryland range anywhere from another six months to a year or more.

The reasons for state delays range from political to logistical. In some cases, shops are ready, or just about ready, to do business and are simply waiting for inventory or final inspections. In other cases, state agencies and departments are still in the rulemaking phase.

With more states expected to pass legislation or approve ballot measures for medical marijuana over the next couple of years, the hope is the newcomers will be able to copy lessons from those states that implemented their marketplaces quickly and efficiently.

Becky Olson can be reached at