In an attempt to discover which states within the U.S. are posting the biggest numbers in terms of marijuana dispensaries per capita, dispensary chain owner Verilife conducted a study spanning 600 cities. The company analyzed marijuana dispensary data from more than 600 cities with a population of at least 50,000 people within 36 states via state government health, cannabis, and recreational marijuana authority records up to Jan. 10, 2020.
Tax revenue from marijuana sales by state was also evaluated and showed that, to no one’s surprise, California led the pack with a whopping $345 million in marijuana-related tax revenue in 2018. Marijuana tax revenue data for Texas and Iowa was not available, and there are 16 states where such taxes were not collected.
As one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana, Oregon was a sure thing as the state with the most marijuana dispensaries per capita, with 16.5 dispensaries per 100,000 residents. Oklahoma came in a surprising second place at 15.6 dispensaries per 100,000, despite the fact that dispensaries were illegal in the state until 2018. Montana, Colorado, and Alaska rounded out the top five. The study points out that despite its second-place ranking for dispensaries per capita, Oklahoma generated the least amount of tax revenue in states where marijuana is legal.
From there, Verilife’s research breaks the numbers down city by city. Nine Oklahoma cities and eight Oregon cities made it into the top 30 for the largest number of dispensaries. In yet another twist, Missoula, Montana took first place as the city with the most dispensaries, with cities in Oregon and Colorado filling out the runner-up slots.
The study does not engage an in-depth analysis of some of the less expected outcomes, but at least one news outlet takes up the inquiry. In an interview for Oklahoma news station and NPR affiliate KGOU, reporter Drew Hutchinson spoke with Russel Ray, editor of The Journal Record. Ray shared that Oklahoma’s skyrocketing share of the dispensary market, which puts it ahead of even California, is due to a difference in licensing types (California has more than 100 types of licenses as opposed to Oklahoma’s “handful”) and licensing fees.
A license to open a marijuana dispensary in California can cost as much as $240,000 as opposed to $2,500 in Oklahoma. Also, in Oklahoma, there are no caps on the number of licenses that can be issued. Ray goes on to describe Oklahoma’s medical marijuana practices (such as criteria for determining the need for a prescription) as “somewhat lax” in comparison with other states where medical marijuana is legal. As for Missoula, Montana’s status as the U.S. city that boasts the most marijuana dispensaries, I could find no rigorous discussion about why this might be so.
For the time being, the numbers that surfaced from Verilife’s study paint an informative picture of the marijuana dispensary landscape today, but also makes it clear that when it comes to future rankings, it’s still anyone’s race.