Scores of Marijuana Dispensaries to Open in Next 6 Months as New MMJ States Come Online

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For all the difficulties medical marijuana businesses have experienced in recent times (raids, moratoriums, dispensary bans, you name it), 2012 is actually shaping up to be a pretty good year for the cannabis industry from a national perspective.

Four states and the District of Columbia are moving forward with dispensary programs this year after long delays, clearing the way for a new wave of medical marijuana centers to open. Vermont is the latest to head in this direction, officially starting its dispensary application process this week. The state will allow four dispensaries to sell medical marijuana to registered patients.

Combined, the states and DC will allow nearly 150 dispensaries and dozens of cultivation operations to set up shop – creating a host of new opportunities and helping to strengthen an industry reeling from a government crackdown. Hundreds of related businesses will also form to support these dispensaries and grow facilities, from hydroponics stores and training facilities to law firms and consultancies.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. The Obama administration’s move to shut down dispensaries and put pressure on the industry had created a chilling effect across the country, convincing officials in emerging cannabis states such as Arizona and Rhode Island to put their fledgling MMJ programs on ice or backtrack entirely.

But there’s been a real turn-around as of late, and the tide has decidedly changed as these states rejuvenate their MMJ plans.

Aside from Vermont, other states moving forward this year with dispensary programs include Arizona, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington DC. While most of these areas will allow just a handful of dispensaries, Arizona will license up to 126 – meaning it could quickly join the list of powerhouse MMJ states such as Colorado, California and Washington State.

These new businesses will help offset recent industry contraction in California, Colorado and Michigan. They’ll also give MMJ a wider footprint geographically, which could help convince other states to go green as well.

Here’s a breakdown showing the number of dispensaries allowed in each of the four new states plus DC:

Arizona: 126

New Jersey: 6

Rhode Island: 3

Vermont: 4

Washington DC: 5