Weekly Wrapup: New Medical Cannabis States Coming Online + Latest on Marijuana Legalization

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Last week, the marijuana industry received some good news on the East Coast, where two emerging medical cannabis states have made tangible progress with their dispensary programs.

New Jersey could see its first dispensary in a few weeks, while Rhode Island could get one in a few months.

Neither of these states will have big medical marijuana markets, at least at first. New Jersey’s program has a few hundred registered patients to date. Rhode Island has a population of just 1 million to begin with, so its initial patient base will likely number in the hundreds as well. Only a handful of dispensaries will be allowed to operate in each state, limiting opportunity and growth.

Compare that to California –  which has hundreds of dispensaries and hundreds of thousands of patients – and the two East Coast states will barely register as blips on the national MMJ’s industry radar screen.

But getting dispensaries up and running in New Jersey and Rhode Island (and, in fact, every state that legalizes medical marijuana) is extremely important for the industry. Once the first MMJ center opens, it solidifies the state’s standing as a valid medical marijuana market. That, in turn, helps create opportunities for others who want in on the MMJ business, from security firms and lawyers to companies that make marijuana containers.

It also helps the medical marijuana cause in general, making dispensaries more common – and acceptable – across the country. That helps efforts to legalize medical marijuana in other nearby states. If voters have actually seen existing dispensaries in other areas, they could be more willing to back MMJ at home.

This could be particularly true on the East Coast, where the whole idea of dispensaries and MMJ in general is still relatively new. While the western US is the epicenter of medical marijuana, most of the newest states to pass MMJ laws are clustered out east. In fact, Massachusetts is set to become the 18th state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana if the current polls are any indication

Also last week, organizers of a bid to legalize the general use of marijuana in Colorado saw a slight erosion in support. A new poll found that 48% of likely voters back the measure, down from 51% in a survey taken a month earlier. The initiative still leads by five percentage points, but the margin is no longer comfortable. If the trend continues to play out over the next two weeks, the election will be extremely tight.

The best chance for cannabis legalization may actually be in Washington state, where a marijuana legalization measure has a solid lead in the polls. But support has declined there as well in the past few weeks, so nothing’s a sure bet. Oregon appears all but out of the legalization game, with a measure there trailing by 7 percentage points in the latest poll.

Other top stories in MMJ Business Daily last week:

’60 Minutes’ Highlights Medical Cannabis Debate

6 Massachusetts Towns Trying to Ban Dispensaries

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