Week in Review: Rec Marijuana Markets Humming Along + Hawaii MMJ Report & Lesson in Illinois

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By Chris Walsh

The nation’s first two recreational marijuana markets post impressive growth, a report bolsters the case for dispensaries in Hawaii and an incident in Illinois provides a valuable lesson for other entrepreneurs.

Here’s a closer look at several notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week:

Going Up

Colorado and Washington State released monthly sales data for their recreational cannabis markets this week, and the trends are encouraging. Retail sales in Colorado rose nearly 25% from June to July (the latest numbers available), while recreational revenues more than doubled in Washington from July to August despite the industry’s slow start.

Some key data points and trends:


  • Stores reported nearly $30 million in marijuana revenue for July, which equates to a daily average of $968,000.
  • Retail sales surpassed medical cannabis revenues (which came in at $29 million in July) for the first time since the rec market launched on Jan. 1.
  • Recreational stores have generated $145 million in revenues from cannabis transactions so far this year, putting the industry on pace for roughly $250 million in 2014.
  • The July sales figure is more than double the $14 million retail shops posted in January.
  • Medical marijuana sales stabilized after dropping earlier this summer.

Washington State

  • Retail stores reported $7 million in recreational marijuana sales in August compared with $3.2 million in July.
  • Cannabis sales averaged $225,474 a day in August vs. $134,148 in July.
  • The largest single sales day so far: $860,000 on Aug. 15, the first day of Seattle HempFest.
  • Revenue has continued to climb through the first week of September, averaging $235,688 a day.

Colorado and Washington are clearly making major headway in recreational cannabis – and that bodes well for other states with adult-use marijuana laws on the ballot this November.

Paging Captain Obvious

Hawaii lawmakers just discovered something patients, advocates and would-be entrepreneurs have know for more than a decade: The state’s MMJ program is broken.

An 87-page report issued this week by the Legisliative Reference Bureau in Hawaii concludes that the current law “does not provide (patients) with a legal method of obtaining marijuana.”

It really shouldn’t have taken an in-depth report to come to that conclusion.

Under Hawaii’s law – passed in 2000 – physicians can issue a written certification for MMJ use to a patient that qualifies under the program. But the law “is silent” on how that individual is supposed to get cannabis, according to the report.

Patients and their primary caregivers can cultivate cannabis. But the state does not allow dispensaries, nor does it provide patients with information on how to cultivate cannabis or obtain the seeds and plants they need to get started, according to the report.

“As a result, there is no place within the state where a person, even a qualifying patient with a valid registry identification certificate, can legally purchase marijuana,” the report said.

Although it states the obvious, the report might actually get lawmakers to understand how ineffective the current system is, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Hawaii pass a dispensary measure next year.

Early Bird Gets the Application in on Time

If you’re seeking a medical marijuana business license in a new state, plan ahead. Way ahead.

That’s the top take-away from an incident in Illinois we wrote about earlier this week.

Several entrepreneurs reportedly abandoned plans to apply for a cultivation license in the town of Marengo after realizing they didn’t have enough time to complete the application required by the state.

Applicants need to provide detailed plans on their operations – including whether their proposed location complies with local zoning rules and if they have applied for such approval.

The team in Marengo first approached local officials in early August, giving the group a short window to gain support and find a location. Illinois is only accepting applications only from Sept. 8 through 22.

The town was receptive to the idea – and even eager to land a cannabis operation – but the group simply didn’t move fast enough, one official said.

“As far as losing an enterprise, they were responsible for getting certain things done, and they didn’t do it in time,” Mayor Don Lockhart told the Northwest Herald. “We certainly could have handled a center very well.”

Other potential applicants across the state also are scrambling to secure local approvals. Although local backing is not required to apply, getting local officials on board could prove to be crucial given that the competition is heavy for the limited number of MMJ licenses the state will award.

The incident shows how difficult it can be for entrepreneurs in new MMJ markets to figure out the increasingly complex and in-depth application processes required by states – and to prepare accordingly.

In states like Illinois, entrepreneurs should start meeting with official and scouting out locations early on in the process, even before final application rules have been released.