The celebration at most of Maryland’s medical marijuana dispensaries didn’t last long.
After a four-year-plus wait, medical cannabis sales at a handful of the state’s 10 fully licensed dispensaries began Friday to patients who waited in line for hours.
But dispensary owners didn’t receive as much product as hoped and were forced to limit customers to smaller quantities than they’re legally allowed to buy.
Store shelves were nearly empty within days, leaving shop owners waiting on additional supply to start selling again. The flower supply went first, but some stores still had Dixie Elixirs products for sale.
Only one grower, Curio Wellness, is currently providing flower to Maryland’s dispensaries, and there simply isn’t enough to go around.
Maryland has awarded 14 cultivation licenses, but Curio is the only one with product ready at the moment.
Hiccups like Maryland is experiencing aren’t uncommon in the marijuana industry, as new state markets come online each year.
For example, Hawaii’s rollout this year looked very similar, with a supply shortage forcing dispensaries to temporarily close not long after beginning sales.
Despite the setbacks, Maryland’s MMJ business owners are finding solace in finally making transactions and getting product out the door.
“It was a festive day,” said Andy Grossman, market president for Green Thumb Industries Maryland, which owns the Rise dispensaries in Silver Spring and Bethesda. Rise’s Bethesda location opened for business on Saturday.
“People have waited a long time.”
At the Kannavis dispensary in Frederick, manager Jordan Baker said patients were in a celebratory mood Saturday.
“It was very friendly,” he said, noting that customers in line were clapping as others came out of the store with their purchases.
More than 200 patients purchased medical cannabis at Kannavis and cleaned the store out of flower by the end of the business day.
While declining to give sales figures or provide the total amount of product sold, Baker said most patients bought the store’s quarter-ounce limit for flower. Kannavis sold two strains at $112 and $125 for a quarter-ounce.
Patients were also limited to two infused products. Baker said the store also sold quite a few vaporizers and other accessories.
Bill Askinazi, principal at Potomac Holistics dispensary in Rockville, started sales Friday night and was “almost out of product” by Monday.
About 250 patients snatched up the roughly 4 pounds of flower Potomac had on hand.
“We went right through it,” Askinazi said.
He declined to provide sales numbers or prices but said patients “weren’t just buying grams. The average sale was healthy.”
Askinazi turned away about 100 patients when the flower supply dried up on Saturday, but the dispensary still had a few Dixie tablets and elixirs left on Monday.
At the Allegany Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Cumberland, CEO and owner Dr. Sajal Roy said he didn’t receive as much product as he had hoped.
His store opened Friday and sold its 2.75 pounds of flower by Saturday. Roy had asked for about 8 pounds.
Roy estimated his dispensary served about 150 patients for total sales of about $26,000 for the two days. Patients averaged a little over $200 a transaction, he added.
Flower sold for $24 a gram at the Allegany dispensary, where patients were encouraged to limit their purchases.
Rise Bethesda served hundreds of patients Saturday, according to Grossman.
Patients were capped at a quarter-ounce of flower, which sold for $110. The store also offered infused products.
Bumps in the road
Aside from the supply issue, dispensaries experienced run-of-the-mill, opening-day stumbling blocks.
Kannavis’ Baker said it was tough launching on a Saturday because customer support offices weren’t open. He was putting out fires – problems with the labeling or receipt printers, for instance – by reading online help articles.
Askinazi cited one glitch. His technology – MJ Freeway’s point-of-sale system and Metrc’s state seed-to-sale traceability program – wasn’t communicating well.
Allegany’s Roy also had similar computer issues – problems with his POS and label printer – but nothing out of the ordinary.
Baker said Kannavis was “very, very low” on MMJ on Monday, with only a few infused tablets left. He expected to run out by the end of the day.
He’s hoping to get new supplies in seven to 10 days.
“It could be sooner,” Baker said. “But from what we’ve learned from the industry so far, nothing’s written in stone.”
Askinazi said Potomac Holistics hopes to receive its next shipment of product Tuesday.
Roy’s expecting to have new product by the end of the week and plans to call patients when it comes in.
Grossman said Rise Bethesda still has some product available and is hoping it wouldn’t run out. Management is waiting on the cannabis supply chain to become more robust before opening the Silver Spring location.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org