The medical cannabis market in New Hampshire will be one of the smallest in the nation under a pending bill, with sales hovering around $2 million to $3 million annually once the program is fully up and running, according to estimates by Medical Marijuana Business Daily.
The projected dollar amount is tiny compared to other medical cannabis states, where sales total in the tens – or even hundreds – of millions. The list of qualifying medical conditions also is extremely short, meaning the New Hampshire customer base will be modest, and the regulations covering the industry will limit business opportunities.
Still, a handful of players who get in on the ground floor stand to benefit immensely.
Under the measure – which already has the backing of the governor and is on track to clear the legislature – up to four nonprofit dispensaries will be able to set up shop in the state. The dispensaries will have to cultivate their own marijuana and ostensibly are the only operations allowed to make edibles and infused products as well (though the exact details will be determined in the rule-making process).
The primary business opportunities will therefore be limited to these four main players, so those lucky enough to land a license could see rapid growth. No home growing will be allowed, giving dispensaries total control over the market. There will also be some opportunities for vendors, suppliers and patient-focused companies to get involved.
Other business aspects of the bill:
– Fees for dispensary business licenses and applications – as well as patient MMJ cards – will be set down the road by the health department. The final bill does not include any proposed dollar amounts, caps or minimums but stipulates that the program’s revenue must cover its costs.
– Approved dispensaries must have a board of directors consisting primarily of New Hampshire residents. At least one director must also be a state-licensed physician, nurse or pharmacist.
– The measure is much less detailed than similar bills in other nearby states. It doesn’t, for example, include requirements for testing marijuana or in-depth language on other operational issues such as packaging, though these details might materialize in the rule-making process.
With a population of 1.3 million, New Hampshire’s patient base will likely total somewhere between 1,200 to 1,600.
MMJ Business Daily’s market and patient base projections are based on several factors, including numbers from states with similar laws and average patient spend data. While states with very liberal medical condition requirements have patient numbers that hover around 2% of the population base, others with much more limited rules have just a fraction of that number. Some barely even register as a blip on the MMJ radar. New Jersey, for instance, currently has around 1,000 registered patients – or just .011% of the population base.
The exact number of registered patients in New Hampshire will depend on the state’s health department, which will have the ability to issue a waiver to patients who don’t fit the narrow medical criteria but receive a recommendation for marijuana from their doctor.
If the governor signs the bill as expected, New Hampshire will become the 20th state with medical marijuana laws and the second to pass such legislation this year, after Maryland. It will also become the last state in New England to approve the use of medical cannabis, making the region a stronghold for the industry.
Despite the limited business potential, the passage of an MMJ law in New Hampshire will open the door for discussions on legalizing marijuana for adult use and other cannabis-related issues such as decriminalization, said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project.
“The conversation about marijuana policy in general in New Hampshire has been restricted by the fact that this bill hasn’t passed yet,” Simon said. “This will free up the conversation and allow it to move forward, leading to a more free-flowing debate.”
Cannabis supporters also plan to lobby for enhancements to the medical marijuana program next year, such as adding post-traumatic stress disorder to the qualifying conditions list and possibly expanding the number of dispensaries beyond four.
The state legislature passed medical marijuana bills in 2012 and 2009, only to see them vetoed by the governor at the time. New Hampshire’s new governor, Maggie Hassan, supports the 2013 measure and said she intends to sign it.