Tracking the Number of Registered Medical Patients by State: MAP

An overview of state medical cannabis markets by patient count, with commentary from Headset.

As more states allow for adult consumption of cannabis, it’s important to look at how full legalization is affecting medical cannabis markets. Currently, there are 39 states that have legalized medical cannabis, and 19 states that have legalized adult use. Besides South Dakota, every state that has legalized adult use had already legalized medical cannabis at an earlier date.

While the path to legalization—prohibition to medical to recreational—is standard, there are some significant differences and similarities between states that have transitioned from medical to adult use that are worth examining. In particular, we analyzed medical and adult-use sales numbers and looked at average basket size and category preferences in both medical and adult-use markets. 

Early on, states were slow to transition from medical to adult legalization. California, which in 1996 was the first state to approve medical use, didn’t approve adult use until 20 years later, in 2016. This transition has moved a lot faster in recent years, in states like Illinois, which  passed medical in 2013 and adult use in 2020. Generally speaking, states with relatively mature recreational markets share some distinctions that differ from newer recreational markets. 

But there are a lot of other factors at play that affect adult-use and medical markets. 

 

Sales in States That Recently Opened Recreational Markets 

To begin, we’ll look at Illinois and Michigan markets, as they have both made the transition from medical only to medical and adult use within the last two years. When adult-use markets open, they tend to grow at a rapid pace. Sales in Illinois, for example, grew by 226% from $39.2 million, when they first began in January 2020, to $127.8 million in July 2021. Over this same time period, Michigan’s total adult-use sales grew from only $9.8 million to $115.3 million, a whopping 1,077%.

As adult-use sales skyrocketed in both states, medical sales in Illinois have meanwhile remained fairly consistent, with a total increase of 35% from $23.4 million in January 2020 to $31.5 million in July 2021. Medical sales in Michigan grew by 75% over this time period—what would be considered a respectable, high growth rate in most industries, but a number that pales in comparison to the state’s colossal growth in adult-use sales.

It is clear that the introduction of adult-use sales leads to a decrease in medical sales proportionally. In July 2021, medical sales in Illinois reached an all-time low, accounting for only 20.9% of all sales (down from a high of 45.5%). Michigan medical sales have also steadily declined proportionally, accounting for only 27.7% of all sales in the state by July 2021 (down from a high of 73%). That being said, it’s certainly not the case that adult-use markets are making their medical counterparts irrelevant—remember in both of these markets, adult-use sales still grew respectively. 

Perhaps adult-use markets help legitimize cannabis and signal to more people with medical ailments that cannabis can help their condition. 

Sales in States with More Mature Recreational Markets

When looking at states that have recently entered the recreational space, we see a steady decline in proportional medical sales relative to adult-use sales. In more mature markets, however, the proportions of medical to adult-use sales stay pretty flat. For example, in Colorado, which introduced adult-use cannabis back in 2014, medical sales have accounted for 18 to 23% of total cannabis sales from January 2020 to July 2021. And in Oregon, which introduced adult use in 2015, medical sales have hovered between 8 and 12%.

Why Do Patients Still Use Medical Programs?

When looking at sales data, it’s clear that even though recreational sales trump medical sales, state medical programs are still alive and well. Besides the legitimacy factor—cannabis has medicinal properties that can help people in need—there are several other reasons why people would opt for medical over adult use and pay the expenditure for a medical card. 

  • ● Lower age limits: In states like Oregon and Colorado, the age limit for medical use is 18, while the age limit for adult use is 21. This may incentivize younger consumers to procure a medical card, so they can purchase from dispensaries.
  • ● Lower taxes: Medical cannabis purchases, in general, are taxed at appreciably lower rates than adult use. For example, in Colorado adult-use sales are subject to a 15% cannabis excise tax and any additional local taxes, whereas medical sales are subject to only a 2.9% state excise tax plus local taxes. In Oregon, medical purchases aren’t taxed at all, whereas recreational purchases are subject to a 17% excise tax and an additional 3% local municipal tax.
  • ● Higher-THC potency products: Some markets have higher product THC potency limits for medical products compared to recreational. In Washington, for example, a recreational edible is limited to 100mg THC per package and 10mg THC per serving, whereas a ‘High THC’ product available only to medical patients may contain up to 500mg THC per package and 50mg THC per serving.
  • ● More knowledgeable staff: Some markets require budtenders to have more training or experience in order to sell medical cannabis, as opposed to just selling recreational. For example, Washington has a program for cannabis retail employees to become certified medical marijuana consultants, which requires 20 hours of training. Medical patients who are perhaps newer to cannabis or are really dedicated to finding the right products to treat their condition, would welcome having more knowledgeable staff to guide them. 

Distinguishing Buying Patterns For Adult-Use Consumers VS. Medical Patients

In addition to sales numbers, through our research, we found other notable differences between medical and adult-use markets. Sales data suggests medical patients and adult-use customers have different general preferences across product categories, with medical patients more likely to purchase concentrates and adult-use customers more likely to purchase edibles and pre-rolls. 

This makes sense, as medical patients may need a product with higher intensity to help alleviate pain, whereas edibles and pre-rolls are portable and shareable, appealing to adult-use consumers who may be using cannabis more for fun and socialization than to treat ailments. Flower and vape pens, in contrast, are popular amongst both medical patients and adult-use consumers; we didn’t find any discernible differences for these categories.

Another trend we found is in basket size. Medical patients on average purchase more goods per transaction than adult-use customers. 

This makes sense because there are a lot of adult-use customers who just dabble in cannabis and perhaps want to visit dispensaries for the novelty of it, so they’re less likely to purchase a lot. Medical patients had to pay a fee to access their program and the money spent could signal they’re more committed to purchasing cannabis than adult-use consumers as a whole. A lot of medical patients find serious relief through cannabis and are therefore more likely to use cannabis consistently and purchase more products. Also, there are medical patients who have ailments that make it harder to visit dispensaries, so they’re more inclined to buy a lot of products at once, rather than making frequent trips.

Cannabis stocks take off on legalization hopes. One investor sees potential for more upside

The stars may be aligning for cannabis stocks as they tear higher on hopes around a reported Republican-led legalization effort, Tim Seymour said.

The Amplify Seymour Cannabis ETF (CNBS) portfolio manager and CNBC contributor told CNBC’s “ETF Edge” on Wednesday that a possible bill drafted by South Carolina House Rep. Nancy Mace to deschedule and regulate the federally illegal substance “could be a game changer for the cannabis industry.”

The removal of cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act would make it legal in the U.S.

“Despite all of the strong growth and bottom-up dynamics, [cannabis] really still is very much a macro story for investors,” Seymour said.

“[It’s] huge news for a market that was not expecting descheduling or a federal outcome potentially before midterm elections and something that clearly is in the price of cannabis stocks,” he said.

Both U.S. and Canadian cannabis stocks have skyrocketed since Marijuana Moment first reported on the bill’s existence, with many names including Seymour’s CNBS ETF erasing most of their recent downdrafts.

“You’ve effectively put in a reset, a sanity check, because as bullish as the backdrop is for investing in cannabis, it’s been a very difficult run for the last nine months,” Seymour said. “This announcement immediately took a spring-loaded industry significantly higher and maybe reset a lot of those charts.”

Big industry players including [Trulieve] and [TerrAscend] could also impress with their upcoming earnings reports, said Seymour, also founder and chief investment officer at Seymour Asset Management.

“Sequential third-quarter growth for a lot of the cannabis companies will not be what it was year over year, but 20%-40% growth at a time when the industry is frankly just becoming a lot more sophisticated,” he said.

“These are companies that are finally getting … that much more refined,” he said, highlighting the “operational excellence coming at a time when the valuations still put cannabis as a growth sector very much near the bottom of sectors that are showing enormous growth.”

Between earnings season, legalization hopes, possible merger and acquisition activity heating up, and valuations reset, cannabis stocks could continue their ascent, he said.

CNBS climbed more than 3% on Thursday. It is up nearly 7.5% year to date.

State cannabis agency tracks local opt-outs before kicking off licensing process

The Office of Cannabis Management launched a portal to track laws that will keep dispensaries and lounges out of some localities

ALBANY — In an effort to gather crucial local data necessary to plan the state’s licensing of adult-use cannabis businesses, New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) is compelling municipalities to submit their decisions to opt out of allowing cannabis retailers as soon as possible through an online portal launched Wednesday, Nov. 10.

The opt-out process has been a hot topic at town board meetings across the state, with a Goshen tirade even going viral on TikTok, after the state legalization bill passed last spring gave municipalities until Dec. 31, 2021, to push through local laws limiting the distribution of licenses for businesses like dispensaries and cannabis lounges in their jurisdictions.

In some municipalities, including the Hudson Valley’s Tuxedo and Cold Spring, voters were asked to weigh in directly on the potential for cannabis businesses in their area during last week’s general election.

“These decisions will be critical for those seeking a license to understand where opportunities are available and for the Board to understand the initial geographic picture of participation,” said Chris Alexander, the OCM’s executive director. 

The OCM and its oversight board, the Cannabis Control Board, have not yet provided any details to prospective adult-use licensees on the nature of the application process or the number of licenses the state will grant. But knowing which municipalities will disallow such businesses will be crucial for the board to determine how to distribute the initial round of licenses under their purview.

“I encourage localities requesting to opt-out of hosting dispensary and on-site consumption licensees to file their requests promptly,” said Tremaine Wright, who chairs the board that will ultimately approve the state’s first adult-use cannabis businesses. 

Municipalities are not allowed to prohibit other conduct made legal on the state level last spring, such as smoking weed in public. While they are required to pass any local opt-out laws by Dec. 31, governments can choose to opt back in at any time or to allow some types of businesses but not others.

Some local leaders in the Capital Region and the Hudson Valley have chosen to permit cannabis dispensaries but have banned on-site consumption businesses, or “lounges,” which are akin to bars for pot use. 

The recent Hudson Valley referendums produced a similar result: residents in both Tuxedo and Cold Spring appear to have opted out of on-site consumption businesses, though voters from the latter opposed a separate proposal to ban dispensaries, offering a boost to those hoping to purchase pot and smoke at home. In Cold Spring, still-uncounted absentee ballots may impact this result.

Municipal governments that chose to opt out of having cannabis retailers in their jurisdictions were already required by law to directly request that the Cannabis Control Board refrain from allowing such businesses to obtain state licenses. 

New Odor Control Technology for Cannabis Cultivation

To keep neighbors and regulators happy, operators must find better solutions to cannabis cultivation’s odor problem. Can new odor control technologies solve this growing issue?

Odor control for today’s commercial cannabis cultivator is just as critical as it was for the traditional black market grower. In the good old days of underground grow ops, a stinky operation was likely to get shut down. And today, the story isn’t much different, only at an industrial scale.

ODOR ABATEMENT TECHNOLOGY RAPIDLY ADVANCING FOR CANNABIS CULTIVATORS

As cannabis and hemp legislation opens up massive market potential, there is a growing urgency to find new odor control technologies that can work for facilities that can cover tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of square feet.

Technologies implemented in grow rooms across the country include carbon filtration, bipolar ionization, and sealed grow room design:

Carbon Filtration:

Most operations use some form of carbon filter. In essence, it’s a filtration system filled with activated carbon, which sequesters volatile compounds through absorption.

As one of the oldest forms of odor control, this technology has evolved in recent years to adapt to the sheer size and scope of commercial operations. For example, the high humidity of a large-scale greenhouse is a challenging factor for the traditional carbon scrubbers used in the industry.

According to Dr. William Vizuete, Chief Scientific Officer at Pacific Environmental Analytics in Cannabis Business Times, new filtration technology should start with a leaf enclosure test. This measurement determines which volatile organic compounds (e.g., terpenes) are expressed and at what growth stage—details that help an engineer assess the type of filter required and estimated loads.

Envinity is an air purification company working with the cannabis greenhouse industry in Carpinteria Valley, California. It has also extensively studied “the behavior of the odor particle of various odorous plants” to develop its carbon filter and purification technology specifically for cannabis.

According to a recent article highlighting the new odor ‘ceasefire’ in Carpinteria Valley, the newly installed scrubbers use pre-filters and ultraviolet light to extend the life of the carbon filter.

Developed through extensive and localized R&D, these carbon filters aim to resolve the ongoing complaints in the area about smelly cannabis cultivation.

Bipolar Ionization:

Bipolar ionization technology, from the likes of companies like Plasma Air, deploys positive and negatively charged ions into the localized environment. As a result, smaller airborne particulates clump together into larger masses, charged up by the ionization.

These larger particles’ odor-causing contaminants get caught within standard filters (like activated carbon designs) used within the HVAC system.

Plus, the system creates oxygen ions, which naturally oxidize (degrade) the common odorous aerosols produced through cannabis cultivation.

According to Plasma Air, bipolar ionization technology is effective for small particles with a 99 percent success rate compared to most other filtration and odor control solutions. It’s also said to be more cost-effective from OpEX and CapEX perspectives.

Sealed Grow Rooms (Controlled Environment Agriculture):

A final critical component to odor management in and around an indoor cannabis facility is the strict implementation of sealed spaces and a closed-loop HVAC system. Although not applicable for greenhouses, sealed grow rooms ensure no outside exhaust, with air filtered, purified, supplemented, and recirculated back into the space. Controlled indoor environments, widely used in cannabis cultivation, are beneficial for keeping pests, disease, and, importantly, odors at bay.

Andrew Cornwall, a partner in Rose Mary Jane, a multi-state retailer, and cultivator, based in Oklahoma, maintains the protocols around sealed rooms, offering more than just pest control and cleanliness. In his experience, sealed grow rooms ensure no odors leave the space, ensuring happy neighbors no matter where the operation is located.

Cornwall explained that Rose Mary Jane’s current operations in Oklahoma are smell-free, all thanks to a well-controlled indoor environment. He detailed, “We are not exhausting the smelly air, and the added benefit for us with that is we aren’t bringing in contaminated air. Actually sealing the smell in at the point of the source. So we don’t have to deal with charcoal filters, ductwork, and fans.”

Cornwall did importantly highlight that different markets require different odor abatement plans. For example, in Maine, where Rose Mary Jane is expanding operations, they may need to implement additional layers simply due to local regulations. However, he maintains, “Our facility won’t smell because we keep our grow rooms, and we keep our dry rooms sealed.”

FACILITY CONSIDERATIONS START FROM THE GROUND UP

When considering plans for odor control, cultivators and producers need to consider the entire operation, not just the grow rooms. Therefore, odor mitigation plans, typically a requirement within any legal market, need to cover all aspects of the facility, including cultivation rooms, trim rooms, drying rooms, packaging spaces, storage areas, and general HVAC for the common areas.

A mitigation plan (also called an odor abatement plan) details what technologies are applied and where. They drill down into the nitty-gritty aspects, including expected rate of exchange (CFM), filter replacement schedule, and general maintenance requirements.

The cannabis sector has long ago outgrown the typical odor control technologies suitable for an illegal basement grow op. Even the conventional carbon filters are no longer suitable for commercial and industrial-sized operations.

New technologies, including highly customized activated carbon filters, bipolar ionization, and hermetically sealed grow rooms with closed-loop HVAC systems, are required.

Harvesting Cannabis – Is Wet or Dry Trimming Better?

Trimming cannabis is a critical step in the process regardless of which method you choose. Learn about dry vs. wet trimming here!

Dry trimming has become almost unilaterally preferred by cultivators due to the perceived superiority of the results and ease of handling the flower, but drying takes time. On the other end of the spectrum, trimming wet flowers can be done right after harvest, but it often gunks up trimming shears within seconds. If all worked out as planned, maybe most farms would only engage in dry trimming. Yet, time crunches happen. Thus, many farms have to expend considerable capital investments for labor costs to have people process wet material.

To be clear, dry trimming is performed after the cannabis has been harvested and allowed to dry for weeks in a controlled environment; wet trimming is any trimming done before this stage. In either method, the process of trimming is a critical step during the cannabis harvest.

Luckily, there’s hope through automated trimming equipment. Cannabis Tech reached out to an industry expert to get the skinny on which methods are the best.

DOES WET OR DRY TRIMMING PROVIDE BETTER RESULTS?

In an interview with Cannabis Tech, Co-Founder of Triminator, Dana Mosman chimed in on trim methods saying, “a dry trim, generally, I think produces a better nose to the product. Better smell, better color. So there’s something about the drying process that allows it to lock in those properties, and there’s no oxidation basically, so when it goes to the wet trim, and it’s sheared off in that product in that it’s trimmed as that part of the process you end up with a bit of enzymatic browning – you lose a little bit of that smell and color.”

“So, for like the flower perspective and the smell color, all the shelf qualities, I think it’s been pretty well established that dry trimming produces those properties better than wet trimming. So for a boutique, top-shelf flower, I would certainly choose dry trimming. But, to get to dry trimming, you have to hang dry the plant, which takes up a lot of space, right? Processors touch the plant multiple times – when they take it down in the field, then hang it up, then cut it down. I wouldn’t recommend hand-bucking unless you’re going for top-shelf flowers,” Mosman explained about the labor-intense process.

Outside of boutique flower, Mosman detailed the differences from a producer’s perspective. “Dry trimming is simply less process efficient. That’s where wet trimming wins. You go into the field; you take it down, run it through the trimmer, and then hang it on the drying racks, and you’re done.”

INDUSTRIALIZATION MEANS THE FORWARD MARCH OF AUTOMATION

Delicate and in-depth handling of each bud is the best way to preserve the terpenes, cannabinoids, and other valuable compounds within the plant. For top-shelf cannabis, this is ideal, but for all other production levels, the labor cost may be too steep.

Here’s where automated cannabis trimming equipment is crucial to the cannabis industry. According to Mosman, dry trimming units can process 6 pounds of cannabis per day, or 5 to 8 pounds per hour, all for the cost of a few thousand dollars.

According to Mosman, “We always look at it as a tool, like any part of what we’re doing, because we have a really automated process now. From bucking to trimming, you can almost be touchless in terms of human interface with it. There are obviously still operators; these are just tools in the grower’s quiver.”

In terms of cost savings and labor reduction, Mosman stated, “We see it as a way to reduce their overhead and still have the same quality product. So it’s never going to 100 percent replace hand trimmers, but if you can cut your labor costs by 80 to 95 percent and still have the same type of output product that you had with a hundred percent hand input.” 

While craft enthusiasts might hate the sound of this, we’re clearing the second decade of cannabis markets in certain states, and cultivators must be more cost-conscious, especially independent growers, in order to maintain a highly competitive market. 

NOT EVERYTHING’S A NAIL WHEN YOU HOLD A HAMMER

While automated trimming is a significant advancement, it is not without its set of risks, especially when the trimming units are far and away from your operation. An additional risk was brought to light in Michigan headlines recently with the recall of several products due to contamination that occurred during trimming.

According to the local government officials, “Several batches of marijuana were run through the mechanical trimmer of Michigan Medical Marijuana LLC, doing business as Glo, before retesting for microbial failures. The mechanical trimmer was contaminated with banned chemical residues Bifenthrin and Chlorfenapyr.”

As the story unfolds in Michigan it’s a glaring reminder, that as with all production equipment, stringent operating procedures and cleaning schedules must be maintained and enforced.

Additionally, for those meticulously focused on a boutique product, automated trimming still isn’t quite an ideal choice. Perhaps it will never become so, but as alcohol ranges from moonshine to Jack Daniels and international liquors over $100 a bottle, there will be room for every sort of cultivator in the future of cannabis. We might even see automated options that fit within top-shelf cultivators someday.

Everything you should know about buying edibles

Despite the perks, edibles tend to occupy a divisive corner of the cannabis world. Not only do brands struggle to comply with soul-shattering legal and political scrutiny like dosing caps, ingredient restrictions, and child-proof packaging laws, the edibles themselves don’t exactly have the best reputation with novice users

Deep down, there’s a sense of fear that surrounds the use of edibles, spurred by countless Maureen-Dowd-esque horror stories from confused newbies who accidentally ingested way too high a dose, and were then locked into navigating an unmanageable high for an uncomfortable amount of hours. 

What these people don’t know, it seems, is that edibles have come a LONG way from the magic brownie space cakes of yesteryear. In fact, edibles are technically the safest way to control the level of your high, with their extremely clear dosing restrictions and growing focus on microdoseable products. 

In hopes of clearing the antiquated stigma that’s tainted people’s perception of a really great way to experience cannabis, here is our guide to everything you should know about buying edibles.

Introduction to edibles

Prior to 2016, Prop 64, and the veritable dismantling of the edibles industry, the edibles market was a very different place. Funky mom and pop brands regularly rolled out fun products like dosed ice creams, 1000 milligram coffee cakes, cannabis lattes, and anything else you could possibly concoct. Creativity flowered as these little companies branded their magic products in wild packaging. It was a beautiful time. 

Flash forward to now, none of those brands exist. Along with legality came a slew of restrictions on edibles in California, namely a 10 milligram per serving dosage cap, a ban on any products with dairy or that require refrigeration, and packaging laws stringent enough to deflate any marketing team’s attempts at artful presentation. 

The edibles market today is made up of a handful of brands that managed to weather the storm and is mitigated mostly to products that fall into the following three categories: chocolates or caramels, baked goods, and gummies or hard candy. 

What dose works best for you? 

Nothing is more important than dosing when it comes to choosing an edible, especially for those nervous about getting too high. To better understand dosing, let’s cover the main types of edible doses you’ll encounter: 

Microdose: 1 milligram — 5 milligrams THC

Microdosing is the key for novice users looking to explore the world of edibles. These products, like Kiva’s Petra Mints and Dosies Sublimes, offer 1 milligrams — 5 milligrams of THC per serving, making it virtually impossible to take too much when following instructions. 

The most prominent trend in the edibles of today, microdosing is about feeling good, not getting obliterated. They’re great for productive workdays, family obligations, first dates, and anything else where you want to take the edge off yet remain focused. Start with 2.5 milligrams of THC and work your way up SLOWLY, meaning every 2 hours adding to the dose if you feel so inclined. If you’re completely new to cannabis, not just edibles, start with 1 milligram of THC. 

Medium Dose: 5 milligrams —10 milligrams THC

This level of dosing is great for anyone comfortable with being a bit stoned. Blurring the line between wellness tools and recreational pot products, medium-dose edibles like CHILL Chocolates are for getting high enough to feel distinctly, well, high, without feeling like you’re out of control. Great for hanging out with friends, going to a concert, hiking, and all those kinds of activities we can’t partake in for a while. 

Macrodose: Anything above 10 milligrams THC

Stoner psychonauts, assemble! Macrodosing is reserved for people who are extremely familiar with getting high, and extremely familiar with the high of edibles in particular. Under no circumstances should a person new to edibles take a dose over 10 milligrams. If you’re not new to edibles, however, Punch Edibles and Madame Munchie are great go-tos for an extra-terrestrial experience.  

What makes a good edible?

Now that we’ve mastered the art of dosing, it’s time to talk about what to look for when you’re choosing an edible to buy. What makes one edible better than another seemingly similar product? There are two main factors at play here.

  • The first, and perhaps most important, is the ingredients. Though it’s easy to get blinded by persuasive budtenders and cute packaging, always check the ingredients on an edible. If you can’t pronounce what’s in it, don’t put it in you.
  • The second factor to look at is price point. When it comes to edibles, you get what you pay for. If a product seems unusually affordable, there’s a reason it’s so cheap. To ensure a fun trip, spring for a quality product. A higher price means better ingredients, better weed and thus, a better high. 

How to save money on edibles

The best way to save money on edibles is to make them yourself. While the process may seem daunting, it’s actually quite simple, and can be a lot of fun.  

While there are a million recipes for cannabutter online, some brands have taken the work out of baking with cannabis with products like Heavenly Sweet’s 2000mg THC butter, Madame Munchies 100mg THC peanut butter or chocolate hazelnut spread, and Vireo’s infused olive oil.  

If you’re the DIY type, or just find yourself unusually bored in isolation, there are also machines like the LEVO Oil and MagicalButter that can weedify any carrier (like oil, butter, honey, etc.) with the mere push of a button. These devices are life-changing, and sure to open a whole world of weed-infused DIY products to spice up your lifestyle. 

Marijuana retailers add VIP rooms, consumption lounges, other amenities to woo customers

A graphic showing some examples of amenities cannabis retailers are adding to stand out from rivals.

Drive-thrus, VIP sales areas, consumption lounges – even separate rooms to buy cannabis growing equipment.

All are features that businesses in the hotly competitive marijuana industry are incorporating into their retail operations to stand out from the crowd and attract customers.

That has helped spark a building boom.

The average size of retail space in cannabis stores jumped in 2020 amid increased consumer demand and the COVID-19 pandemic, rising 50% for medical dispensaries and 35% for recreational shops.

“In more mature states where the adult-use market has been there for a bit and the competition is fiercer, many of our clients want to separate themselves from the pack,” said David Fettner, managing partner of Grow America Builders, an Illinois-based, design-build construction firm specializing in the cannabis industry.

Many of Grow America’s clients are looking for ways to make security more subtle and designing their shops with special VIP rooms where deep-pocketed customers get white-glove treatment, Fettner said.

They’re also looking for properties that will lend themselves to drive-thru operations, such as former banks or fast-food restaurants.

In Michigan, Cory Roberts and brothers Edgar and David Ramon formed a partnership to purchase the former Sons of Norway lodge and 4 acres of land in Muskegon, where they’re planning to develop a cannabis retail store, consumption lounge and grow operation.

The new venture is called Fields Cannabis.

“Our concept is that rather than just be retail or cultivation or a consumption lounge, we’re looking at ourselves as a destination spot,” Edgar Ramon said.

“People can spend as much time here as possible – they’ll be entertained, they’ll be fed, and they’ll have an immersive experience.”

Ramon and his colleagues plan to renovate the existing 11,000-square-foot building for use as a retail store and consumption lounge.

The building’s commercial-grade kitchen will enable Fields Cannabis to serve gourmet food in the lounge, but the cuisine won’t be cannabis-infused.

There will be a VIP area where customers can have products brought to them, much as a sommelier helps connoisseurs select fine wines.

Fields Cannabis is in the process of designing a 10,000- to 14,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly greenhouse that will help the company as it attempts to become carbon neutral.

Fields Cannabis will use virtual reality and artificial intelligence to help give visitors an immersive experience.

For example, guests visiting the company’s consumption lounge will be invited to use virtual-reality goggles to tour the cultivation facilities to see what stages the plants are in – without setting foot in the grow.

“We don’t want to bring anybody in through our facility – we have to be cautious about cross-contamination,” Ramon said.

 Legacy companies rethink stores

 Even the operators of legacy companies that have been successful since marijuana was legalized in their states are rethinking how to design their stores.

Denver-based marijuana chain Native Roots, for example, has opened two new retail outlets that are similar to an Apple Store. One of them also has a drive-thru.

Customers are greeted by a budtender who will guide them through the store while providing a one-on-one consultation, said Buck Dutton, Native Roots’ vice president of marketing.

Products are displayed by category – edibles, vapes, concentrates and flower – in different sections of the new store.

Budtenders in the new stores use iPads to build their customers’ orders.

Those orders are fulfilled as customers walk through the facility, so shoppers are ready to check out once they’re done shopping.

By contrast, Native Roots’ legacy shops are akin to jewelry stores, with products under glass in cabinets, Dutton said.

Native Roots is conducting customer surveys to determine what works well for the company under each model.

It’s offering customers of its older stores $25 to visit the new facilities and report what they like about each.

“We’re using secret shoppers but with our own customers,” Dutton said. “In the retail business, the customer is No. 1, so we value what the customer says.”

 ‘Super’ checkouts, music, art

Boca Raton, Florida-based Jushi Holdings is working with a national architecture firm to address measures it can take to better accommodate people with disabilities and implement “super” checkouts with up to 20 point-of-sales systems.

The company also wants to incorporate roving and express checkouts as well as walk-up windows.

In addition, Jushi is integrating music culture and art into the experience customers have in its stores.

The company’s Beyond/Hello store in Santa Barbara, California, features artwork from Jona Cerwinske, who garnered attention in the art and music worlds for his Sharpie murals that sell for about $35,000.

Jushi also recently partnered with Colin Hanks to bring his Hanks Kerchiefs line into its stores.

Julian Scaff, Jushi’s experience design director, said the company is “focused on providing our customers with unique music, art, fashion and cultural experiences that complement our modern cannabis retail environments.”

He added: “We also have been using color psychology, musicology, data, research and even the neuroscience of scent to create cohesive customer experiences.”

Express lane, merchandising space

While many retailers are focused on distinguishing themselves from rivals by renovating and building new stores, others have focused on other aspects of the business they believe will differentiate them.

Nevada-based Deep Roots Harvest, for example, is focusing on bolstering its online experience in response to customer feedback.

“People want an experience where they can go to a nice menu, put a pre-order in, pick it up or have it delivered — people want in and out,” said Jon Marshall, chief operating officer of Deep Roots Harvest in Mesquite.

If customers have preordered through the Deep Roots Harvest website, they can pull into an express lane and a runner will bring out the products.

“Of course, there are the ‘never-evers’ who have never been into a dispensary and have a lot of questions,” he said. “We’re trying to create a system where they can slot into a lot of different ways to shop.”

Deep Roots Harvest has also added merchandising areas to its stores where customers can by T-shirts and paraphernalia.

Although the areas are not consumption lounges, seating is available.

Las Vegas-based Planet 13 Holdings, with its Willie Wonka-style production windows where customers watch edibles and beverages being produced, is considered the destination for cannabis fans.

To enhance the customer experience, the company has recently installed more video walls, improved the sound systems and expanded the retail space to accommodate the droves of tourists who flock to its flagship store.

Planet 13 also has added a magnetic wall that gives the appearance of its products floating in cylinders and rotating at various speeds – all intended to give customers a 360-degree experience.

“Tourists want an experience,” Planet 13 co-CEO Bob Groesbeck said, “and it’s our job to provide that experience.”

Arizona Releases Qualifying Residency Requirements for 26 Social Equity Cannabis Retail Licenses

Arizona’s 26 social equity licenses for adult-use cannabis dispensaries will be tied to applicants who have recently lived in qualifying ZIP codes, the state’s Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced Oct. 8. 

To meet the geographic residency requirement, applicants must have had a physical address and lived in one of the 87 postal codes for at least three of the past five years. 

While ADHS officials did not release details about their selection process—there are more than 500 ZIP codes in the state—the chosen areas appear heavily focused on or near Native American reservations, The Arizona Republic reported. 

Social equity programs have been met with criticism and lawsuits in other states that have, or are trying to, adopt them. Illinois, where three lotteries were held in July and August, is unable to issue 185 retail licenses until a standing court order is lifted. 

Former ADHS Director Will Humble, who led the effort to implement Arizona’s medical cannabis program, told the Republic that he expects some who think they should be eligible for the 26 social equity licenses—but who later find out they are not eligible—to challenge the rules in court. 

“I’m sure they’re going to get sued,” Humble said, adding that one of the principles of good governance is to explain the conclusions officials have come to, with respect to the ZIP-code selections. “It’s possible the [ADHS] lawyers said the more information we provide, the more ammo we are offering.”

When Arizona voters approved adult-use legalization in the 2020 election through Proposition 207, the measure allowed for existing medical cannabis operators to seek licenses in the adult-use market beginning in January. It also included a provision to make 12 adult-use retail licenses available in rural counties that have one or no medical cannabis dispensaries. 

In addition, Prop. 207 established 26 social equity licenses to be awarded to applicants impacted by prohibition, but ADHS draft rules (released in December) did not explicitly address those licenses. It wasn’t until last week, when ADHS officials released the qualifying ZIP codes, that the entirety of those rules came to light. 

To qualify as an applicant for the 26 social equity licenses, one or more of the principal officers or board members of the applying entity holding an aggregate of at least 51% ownership in the entity must meet three of the following four criteria: 

  1. Had a household income for at least three of the previous five years that, for the respective year, was less than 400% of the federal poverty level.
  2. Has been adversely affected by the enforcement of previous cannabis laws because the individual:
    • Is eligible and has petitioned for expungement pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes Section 36-2862; or 
    • Was convicted in Arizona of a violation of the federal or state law related to cannabis or cannabis paraphernalia and does not have an excluded felony offense.
  3. Has been adversely affected by the enforcement of previous cannabis laws because the individual is related, as one of the following, to another individual who was convicted in Arizona for cannabis or cannabis paraphernalia crimes:
    • Spouse
    • Surviving Spouse
    • Parent
    • Child
    • Sibling
    • Legal Guardian
  4. Has a physical address and has lived for at least three of the previous five years at the physical address in a community that has been identified by ADHS as disproportionately affected by the enforcement of Arizona cannabis laws.

According to ADHS, social equity license holders will be required to develop and implement policies to document how their businesses “will provide a benefit to one or more communities disproportionately affected by the enforcement of Arizona’s previous marijuana laws.”

ADHS plans to accept applications for the 26 licenses in December. Department officials will review all applications for administrative and substantive completeness. Applications deemed complete will be entered into a random selection process used to award the license winners. The random selection is scheduled for Spring 2022, according to ADHS. 

A limited-license state, Arizona’s adult-use cannabis program allows for a total for 169 retail licenses. 

Operation Hammer Strike Strikes Again; Over 60,000 Illicit Cannabis Plants Seized in Weeks Seven and Eight

San Bernardino County’s “Operation Hammer Strike” struck again, with law enforcement seizing over 60,000 illicit cannabis plants in weeks seven and eight of the investigation.

In week seven from Oct. 11-17, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET) and other deputies served 23 search warrants for various locations across nine cities in San Bernardino County, after receiving “numerous complaints” about illegal outdoor and indoor cannabis cultivations within these areas, according to a press release from SBSD headquarters.

Sheriff’s personnel arrested 15 suspects and eradicated 159 greenhouses, one THC extraction lab and three electrical bypasses, the release states. Investigators also seized “20,031 marijuana plants, 3,596 pounds of processed marijuana, three guns, 8 grams of concentrated marijuana and 8.9 grams of methamphetamine.”

Twenty-three search warrants were issued in week eight of the operation, which took place Oct. 18-24, according to a press release from SBSD headquarters.

Law enforcement personnel arrested 38 suspects and liquidated 160 greenhouses and six indoor grow facilities throughout the locations.

According to the release, investigators also found over 40,000 illicit cannabis plants, more than 5,000 pounds of processed cannabis, nearly $120,000 in cash and seven guns.

The multiyear investigation, designed to discover unlawful cannabis cultivations in San Bernardino County, Calif., has had tremendous success over the last two months.

During the last eight weeks, officials have served 183 search warrants and have made 238 arrests. Deputies have also seized the following items: “186,916 plants, 38,911 pounds of already processed marijuana, 8 grams of concentrated cannabis, 8 grams of methamphetamine, 57 guns, $563,449 in illicit narcotic sales proceeds, and eradicated and taken down 1,022 greenhouses, 5 locations with illegal electrical bypasses, and 2 THC extraction labs,” the release states.

Read more Cannabis Business Times Operation Hammer Strike coverage here:

Week one

Week two and three

Week four, five and six

15 States That Could Legalize Cannabis in 2022

Cannabis policy reform is gaining momentum. 

At the federal level, a trio of senators unveiled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) this summer to deschedule, tax and regulate cannabis, and the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act passed the U.S. House for the fifth time in September as part of a defense spending package. 

At the state level, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota legalized adult-use in the 2020 election (although the South Dakota Legislature is now grappling with its own legalization proposal while the state’s Supreme Court deliberates whether the ballot measure is unconstitutional). In 2021, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York and Virginia all legalized adult-use cannabis legislatively. 

Only 14 states remain without full medical or adult-use legalization. With all traditionally blue states out of the way, red states are now weighing their options, perhaps seeing the inevitability of change. 

Here, Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary share the states to watch in 2022 as ballot initiatives and legislation ramp up. 

Likely: 

Delaware (Adult-Use) 

On March 24, The Health and Human Development Committee approved House Bill 150, the Delaware Marijuana Control Act, a legislation to legalize, tax and regulate adult-use cannabis in the state.  

The legislation would establish the regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis in Delaware, allow adults 21 years and older to purchase up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use, provide opportunities for small businesses to receive licenses, and give equal access to individuals living in areas disproportionately affected by prohibition, Cannabis Business Times reported

The legislation was set for a House floor vote in early June but was delayed after a debate over a social equity fund included in the bill. Chief sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski said he plans to reintroduce a substitute of the bill in early January, in time for the 2022 legislative session. 

The majority of Delawareans support adult-use legalization, as a 2018 University of Delaware poll showed 61% of voters favor legalization. 

“Support for adult recreational marijuana has been growing for years in Delaware and across the country,” Osienski said in a press release. “We have seen other states successfully enact policies that established a safe and legal market for cannabis, and we have studied those laws to craft the best policy for Delaware. We believe we have a solid bill that has the support of the public, and we believe we have the political will to pass this bill into law.” 

Voters are expected to revisit the bill during the 2022 legislative session. 

-Andriana Ruscitto 

Oklahoma (Adult-Use) 

In early October, Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action filed initiatives to legalize adult-use cannabis and to dial in some regulatory oversight structure of the state’s medical cannabis market. Both initiatives target the November 2022 election.  

The pair of petitions make for a promising run at cannabis reform in a deeply conservative state that has found a place on the vanguard of the regulated medical marketplace. 

“Until we pass recreational [marijuana legalization] we will not be able to truly bring stability to our program,” Jed Green, head of Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action, told The Oklahoman. “Legalization prevents diversion. Folks have been and are going to use marijuana. Have been for decades. It is in the best interest of our state to get ahead of the curve on this issue. We must put this issue to rest.” 

As things stand now, Oklahoma is in a unique position with its medical cannabis market: The state legalized medical cannabis in 2018 and enacted a free-market approach to licensing. By and large, any state entering the legal cannabis space after, say, 2016, has pursued a more tightly regulated marketplace with limited licensing opportunities for growers, processors and retails. This raises interesting questions for what an adult-use market might look like in Oklahoma. 

Baked into the medical cannabis regulatory overhaul initiative, which would replace the TK with the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission, is a provision to bar the state from capping cannabis business licenses. 

-Eric Sandy 

Mississippi (Medical)  

Mississippi crossed the finish line to fully legalize medical cannabis only to have the state’s Supreme Court overturn a 2020 voter-approved ballot initiative this May.  

Going against two-thirds of Mississippians who voted in support of legalization, six of nine justices ruled the measure was unconstitutional based on a signature-gathering technicality stemming from the state’s outdated initiative process that put a five-district requirement mathematically at odds with the political structure of the state’s electorate following the 2000 Census.  

The 2020 citizen-led ballot measure prevailed over Alternative 65A, a competing measure put forth by the Mississippi Legislature, which industry advocates called a cynical effort by lawmakers to misdirect voters. But now legalization is in the hands of those very lawmakers.  

Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell, chairman of the Senate Medicaid Committee, and Republican Rep. Lee Yancey, chairman of the House Drug Policy Committee, announced in late July they were working on bill proposals aimed at restoring the will of their constituents. In late September, legislative leaders reached a deal on a medical cannabis draft bill and said they planned to ask Republican Gov. Tate Reeves to call an executive session.  

During an Oct. 8 interview, Lt. Gov. Delbert Horsemann told WLOX News that Blackwell led negotiations to address Reeve’s requisites for calling a special session and that a final version of the bill was on the governor’s desk. The governor’s announcement awaits. 

– Tony Lange 

Maybe:  

Maryland (Adult-Use) 

The Maryland House of Delegates is expected to introduce legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state early next year, putting it on the 2022 general election ballot. 

“Adding the measure to the 2022 general election would bypass the state legislature and allow the law to go into effect through just the public’s vote,” Cannabis Business Times reported

In July, Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore) announced her support of putting the question of legalization before voters. 

“The disparate criminal justice impact leads me to believe that the voters should have a say in the future of legalization,” Jones said. “The House will pass legislation early next year to put this question before the voters, but we need to start looking at changes needed to State law now.” 

Jones also appointed a 10-member group to work over the next year on establishing the regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis in Maryland if voters were to approve the measure. 

-Andriana Ruscitto 

Ohio (Adult-Use) 

A group of cannabis advocates in the Buckeye State has relaunched efforts to “regulate marijuana like alcohol” after the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the campaign’s push to place an adult-use legalization measure on Ohio’s 2020 ballot. 

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s proposed law would legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sales to adults 21 and older, as well as allow adults to grow up to six plants at home for personal use. The proposal would levy a 10% tax on adult-use cannabis sales, in addition to regular state and local taxes, to support social equity, host communities, substance abuse education and treatment, and a Division of Cannabis Control, which would oversee the industry. 

The proposed law allows Ohio’s existing medical cannabis operators to expand their cultivation footprint and open additional dispensaries to serve the adult-use market. It also authorizes new adult-use cannabis licenses, including 40 Level III cultivation licenses and 50 retail licenses, with a preference to social equity applicants. 

Although Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost initially rejected summary language for the 45-page initiative petition, he later approved revised language for the measure. 

The Ohio Ballot Board then officially certified the initiative as a single issue, clearing the way for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to collect the more than 130,000 signatures required to present the proposed legislation to the Ohio Legislature. 

-Melissa Schiller 

Wyoming (Medical)

With pressure exerted from states like Montana and South Dakota—new entrants in the adult-use landscape—Wyoming advocates are pushing hard for medical cannabis legalization in 2022. The signature-gathering process is under way. 

“We’re encouraging medical freedom and medical liberty,” Madonna Long, one of the initiative sponsors, told Fox 13. “Voters truly do understand what the initiative is, and they’re coming here on their own.” 

-Eric Sandy 

Pennsylvania (Adult-Use)

A trio of efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis this session has created some spark in Pennsylvania that wasn’t necessarily there before neighboring New Jersey’s voters and New York’s Legislature decided to go green within the past year. 

In the Pennsylvania House, Democratic Reps. Jake Wheatly and Dan Frankel formally filed their adult-use measure, the “Cannabis Regulatory Control Act,” which aims to legalized the possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis or 5 grams of concentrate for personal use for adults 21 and older.  

The legislation, House Bill 2050, puts social and criminal justice at the forefront of reform. In addition, Amber Littlejohn, executive director for the Minority Cannabis Business Association, said provisions in the measure help with access to capital, address barriers to entry and create pathways for small businesses to participate in the industry.  

H.B. 2050 competes with a pair of efforts that have GOP backing in the Senate.  

In February, Republican Sen. Dan Laughlin and Democratic Sen. Sharif Street introduced a bipartisan proposal with provisions for social and economic equity that include expunging non-violent cannabis convictions. As of mid-October, they have yet to officially file their proposal.  

And Republican Sen. Mike Regan, a former U.S. Marshal with a 23-year background in law enforcement, announced Oct. 4 that he’s seeking co-sponsorship for adult-use legislation he plans to introduce. The chairman of the Law and Justice Committee, Regan said current state policy on cannabis has financially “benefitted and perpetuated” organized crime, gangs and cartels.  

Voting in favor and Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis measure in 2016, when he was a member of the state House, Regan said he wants to build off the success of a program that had more than 582,000 patients and caregivers as of May 2021. Regan said his proposal will allow the legal purchase and possession of firearms regardless of one’s choice to use cannabis, and address DUI enforcement, among other provisions.  

Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature is in session through the end of the year.  

-Tony Lange 

Rhode Island (Adult-Use) 

The Rhode Island General Assembly remains in recess since adjourning from its regular session July 1, but adult-use cannabis legalization is still on the table for a possible special session this fall.  

On June 22, the Senate passed an adult-use bill, 29-9, that aims to allow those 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis or 5 grams of concentrate and grow up to six plants for personal use. It also would also expedite the expungement process for those with misdemeanor cannabis records.  

The measure, Senate Bill 568, was sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller and nine of his Democratic colleagues. Miller has been advocating for reform since he chaired a commission that examined prohibition and the effects of what he called a failed policy in 2010. When Miller finally had the opportunity to introduce his adult-use bill in June, it took the upper chamber all of 15 minutes to discuss the legislation before passage. 

But that was a week before adjournment, when House Speaker Joe Shekarchi said the lower chamber was focused on passing a budget and would instead kick cannabis legalization down the road to a special session.  

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, one of the S.B. 568 sponsors, told WPRI-TV last month that legislative leaders were “very close” to making a deal to take up in special session.  

Before adjournment, S.B. 568 competed with Democratic Rep. Scott Slater’s House bill and Democratic Gov. Dan McKee’s state budget proposal he unveiled in March. 

-Tony Lange 

Nebraska (Medical) 

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is again trying to get medical cannabis legalization in front of voters after the Nebraska Supreme Court struck down the group’s 2020 ballot measure on the grounds that it violated the single-subject rule outlined in the state’s constitution. 

Advocates filed two new medical cannabis initiatives with the secretary of state in September and must gather 250,000 signatures by July 7, 2022, to qualify the measures for the 2022 ballot. 

The first initiative would require the Nebraska Legislature to enact laws to protect doctors who recommend cannabis to their patients, as well as the patients who possess and use medical cannabis, from criminal penalty. The second measure would call on lawmakers to pass legislation to establish a regulatory framework that protects businesses that produce and sell medical cannabis. 

-Melissa Schiller 

To Watch: 

Arkansas (Adult-Use) 

Arkansas True Grass, a group advocating for cannabis legalization in Arkansas, is working to gather signatures to place an adult-use cannabis legalization measure on the state’s 2022 ballot.  

The group’s proposed constitutional amendment would charge the state’s agriculture department with overseeing the recreational marketplace, allow residents to purchase up to four ounces of cannabis for personal use, grow up to 12 cannabis plants at home, and clear past cannabis-related convictions.   

The group “has until July 22 to gather enough signatures to qualify its initiative for the 2022 ballot,” Cannabis Business Times reported. 

-Andriana Ruscitto 

Florida (Adult-Use) 

Sensible Florida has filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize adult-use cannabis in the Sunshine State after the Florida Supreme Court struck down an earlier version of the amendment in June. 

The group’s original initiative, called “Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol to Establish Age, Licensing and Other Restrictions” was headed to the 2022 ballot before the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the words “for limited use” were misleading. 

The new proposal would legalize cannabis use for adults 21 and older and would allow adults to grow up to 18 plants at home for personal use. 

Sensible Florida must collect more than 891,000 valid signatures by Feb. 1, 2022, and receive Supreme Court approval to qualify the initiative for the 2022 ballot. 

-Melissa Schiller 

Missouri (Adult-Use)   

Voters may face competing adult-use legalization measures next year, as Fair Access Missouri and Legal Missouri 2022 are working on similar efforts.  

“There’s widespread support among Missouri voters to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana,” Legal Missouri 2022 campaign manager John Payne said in a public statement earlier in the summer. “The status quo has allowed an unsafe, illegal market to thrive in Missouri, while preventing law enforcement from truly prioritizing the fight against violent crime.” 

Payne’s group seeks a 6% sales tax on cannabis purchases in this potential new market, with plans to extend an option to local government to levy their own tax rate.  

The situation may very well end up echoing the state’s 2018 medical cannabis legalization, which saw three competing measures laid before voters. Ultimately, only one of them passed, which avoided the legal snafu of a conflict at the polls.  

-Eric Sandy 

North Carolina (Medical) 

Although the North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee has passed S.B. 711 twice this year, the medical cannabis legalization bill hasn’t made it much farther than that in the Statehouse.  

“There’s far more moving parts to this thing than I thought there was when we began,” Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth), one of the bill’s sponsors, told WNCN in September. “We want to make sure we get it right.” With some open-ended concerns about specific regulatory language in the bill, lawmakers surmised that this one might be sitting on the table until the next legislative session convenes early next year. 

It has been a bumpy road to this point in North Carolina, fraught with false starts and an electorate keenly supportive of medical cannabis (with 80% of voters calling for it as far back as 2017).  

With the political and economic pressure coming down on medical cannabis holdouts like North Carolina, could 2022 be a watershed year? Stay tuned…  

-Eric Sandy 

South Dakota (Adult-Use) 

It’s been six months since the South Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of a voter-approved, adult-use cannabis amendment from the November 2020 election. As of Oct. 27, the state’s high court remains silent on rendering a final decision regarding the fate of Amendment A, which passed with a 54.2% majority.  

Plaintiffs in the case argued that the measure violates the state’s one-subject rule and does not simply amend the state constitution but, rather, revises it.  

Without the Supreme Court’s decision, Amendment A currently sits as unconstitutional, which Circuit Judge Christina Klinger ruled in February. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who opposed Amendment A, nominated Klinger to the state’s Sixth Circuit Court in early 2019. Noem facilitated taxpayer funded litigation seeking to strike down Amendment A earlier this year.  

While the voter-approved initiative hangs in the balance, South Dakota lawmakers are pushing a compromise adult-use legalization effort through the state Legislature.  

The Adult-Use Marijuana Study Subcommittee, which has been studying the issue since June, consists of nine House members and four senators, including 12 Republicans and one Democrat. The bicameral body voted Oct. 19 to recommend a bill that would allow adults 21 and older to purchase up to 1 ounce of cannabis, decriminalize up to 4 ounces and ban public consumption.  

However, that proposed legislation goes against the majority vote in that it intends to prohibit outdoor commercial cultivation operations as well as home grows.  

Separately, cannabis advocacy group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws is gathering signatures for an initiative to put adult-use legalization back on the ballot for 2022. Unlike Amendment A, the proposed 2022 ballot initiative does not include business licensing, sales or regulations.  

Should the Supreme Court uphold Amendment A, then the group would drop its 2022 initiative campaign.  

-Tony Lange 

Wild Card

Idaho (Medical) 

Idaho cannabis advocates are working to place medical and decriminalization measures on the state’s 2022 ballot in what Russ Belville, spokesperson for The Idaho Way (formerly known as the Idaho Citizen Coalition for Cannabis), told Cannabis Business Times is “the most hostile state” toward policy reform. 

Belville’s organization is currently collecting the nearly 65,000 signatures required to place the Personal Adult Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2022 (PAMDA) on Idaho’s 2022 ballot. The initiative aims to end arrests for the personal possession of 3 ounces or less of cannabis in private by adults 21 and older. 

Meanwhile, Kind Idaho is gathering signatures to get the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act for 2022 (IMMA) in front of voters next year. IMMA would legalize the possession of up to 4 ounces of cannabis for medical purposes, as well as the home cultivation of up to six plants for patients with a “hardship waiver.” The initiative would also create a system of dispensaries to sell medical cannabis to qualified patients. 

-Melissa Schiller