The first two dispensaries have opened in Vermont, kick-starting what could become an estimated $2 million market for legal cannabis sales and expanding the list of states with MMJ centers.
Vermont Patients Alliance in Montpelier opened its doors to the public late last week, while Champlain Valley Dispensary in Burlington began servicing patients on Monday. Another dispensary plans to open soon in Brandon.
The overall industry will be quite small. The state allows just four medical marijuana dispensaries, and all must grow their own cannabis – meaning there won’t be separate cultivation operations. The market size is also limited. About 800 residents have registered with the Vermont medical marijuana program, but just 258 have signed up to buy cannabis from dispensaries. The state’s law caps the number of patients who can register with dispensaries at 1,000. After reaching that cap, additional patients who sign up for the MMJ program will have to grow their own or get it from caregivers rather than dispensaries.
Based on average patient spending levels in other medical cannabis states, and considering the price of MMJ in Vermont ($250-$350 an ounce), the current market could total just half a million dollars annually. That will grow to a projected $1.5 million to $2 million in annual cannabis sales once the market reaches its potential – for an average of about $500,000 and 250 patients per dispensary.
Even at its height, the Vermont market will be tiny compared to many other medical marijuana states.
Still, some companies – such as hydroponics firms catering to Vermont’s 114 registered caregivers – could see solid business.
And there’s still one major opportunity to get in on the ground floor: Vermont plans to reopen the application period for the fourth and final dispensary license this summer or fall, Jeffrey Wallen, director of the Vermont Criminal Information Center, told MMJ Business Daily. The state initially had five applicants for the four open slots, but it appears two either dropped out or failed to meet the criteria.
The opening of dispensaries comes two years after the state passed the law allowing MMJ centers to exist and nearly a decade after the legislature adopted medical marijuana legislation.
There have been many bumps along the way. It took nine months for the first two dispensaries to open after receiving initial state approval. One owner told the Burlington Free Press that he ran into complications with getting FBI background checks because they weren’t given the right code, adding that there have been “a bunch of unknowns for the state and us.”
Vermont joins 11 other states with existing dispensaries: Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington State. Some of these states (including Montana, Oregon and Washington) don’t technically allow dispensaries, yet centers exist anyway either because they operate in a legal gray area or because local officials haven’t cracked down.