Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opening Delays by the Numbers

A total of six cultivators were awarded licenses to grow, process, and sell marijuana in Florida in November 2015, but as Crain’s Orlando reports, a year has passed and only two dispensaries are up and running in the state so far. In fact, medical marijuana was approved in Florida in June 2014, so the delay is actually more than two years.

This isn’t a problem that’s only happening in Florida. This type of delay is the norm in the marijuana industry. In Maryland, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, medical marijuana was approved more than two years ago, but dispensaries are still not open in these states. It was approved more than one year ago in Ohio, but dispensaries are still not open there either.

How Long Does It Take for Dispensaries to Open after Medical Marijuana Laws are Passed?

A review of the Cannabiz Media Database and state laws reveals exactly how long it takes for dispensaries to open in each state after medical marijuana laws are passed. Alaska and Michigan never approved dispensaries, but all of the other states that allow medical marijuana have some type of dispensary structure in place to enable patients to access it.

The biggest delays have been experienced in some of the states that legalized medical marijuana many years ago. At first, many of these states didn’t allow dispensaries at all. Informal co-ops opened in some states, but most required that patients self-grow or obtain marijuana from caregiver growers.

It took 22 years between the time medical marijuana was approved and the time the first legal dispensary opened in California. The delay was 16 years in Oregon, 12 years in Maine, nine years in Vermont, seven years in Colorado, and six years in Hawaii.

In more recent years, most states have experienced a one to four year timeline between the time medical marijuana is approved and the first dispensary opened for patients to buy. The timeline in Delaware and Nevada was four years, and in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Washington, DC, there was a three year timeline.

A total of six states managed to open their first dispensary within two years of approving medical marijuana. They are Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York. Only two states were able to open at least one dispensary within one year of approving medical marijuana—Minnesota and Montana.

Can the Time Gap be Closed (or at Least Narrowed)?

In all states, the gap between the time medical marijuana dispensary regulations are released and the first dispensary actually opens is much shorter than the gap between the time when medical marijuana is approved and dispensaries open. Most states open a dispensary within one to two years of dispensary regulations being released. The delay comes from how long it takes for dispensary regulations to be released and licenses to be awarded.

With that information in hand, it’s clear that the delays are primarily coming from the regulatory process. Once regulations are released, things can move quickly, but waiting for laws to be finalized can take a very, very long time.

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