Maryland’s Adult-Use Cannabis Rollout Heralded as Model Success

September 15, 2023 · Cannabis Now

Unlike the myriad of challenges operators in New York face, new applicants in Maryland are stepping into a distinctively encouraging environment as the state gears up to expand its already-successful adult-use market.

The state is set to open its first application round for adult-use marijuana licenses on Nov. 13, which is earmarked exclusively for social equity businesses.

The upcoming 30-day application window will usher in opportunities for 179 new marijuana licensees, including:

  • 75 dispensaries
  • 16 growers
  • 32 processors

The new licenses will substantially expand the market, including more than doubling the number of retailers. The retail scene currently is dominated by medical marijuana dispensaries that pivoted to dual licenses.

But regulators said that the initiative isn’t merely about expanding the market; it’s about ensuring diversity and preventing monopolization by large businesses.

In a Sept. 8 statement, Will Tilburg, the acting director of the Maryland Cannabis Administration, reinforced the state’s pledge to righting prior wrongs, saying that the announcement is “another step forward in fulfilling Maryland’s commitment to building an equitable and inclusive cannabis industry.”

The agency has put safeguards in place, stating it would not award any licenses that would “violate statutory ownership or control restrictions.” Individuals can throw their hats in the ring for both standard and micro licenses, but they can only clinch one. Additionally, the same license type won’t be awarded to an individual in multiple state regions.

Still, the equity-focused expansion is structured with regional limits. For instance, the city of Baltimore has 11 standard dispensary licenses up for grabs, while some entire counties are limited to just one.

The news came after the MCA rolled out a digital portal allowing potential applicants to gauge their eligibility for a license in advance of the application season.

A Good Summer

Maryland’s adult-use launch stands out due to its seamless move from medical to recreational cannabis. Existing medical cannabis operators that jumped in early saw doubled sales and an upward price trend. The state’s top stores now report sales figures between $25 million and 30 million, considerably higher than the state average of $10 million per store.

“Maryland is a good example of a medical cannabis state going recreational in a smooth manner,” cannabis equities firm Zuanic & Associates lead analyst Pablo Zuanic wrote in a report Wednesday.

According to official data from the state, August’s combined recreational and medical sales reached $91.7 million, up from $87.4 million in July and $42.7 million in June.

The Zuanic report also touched on an interesting trend of retail prices outpacing costs: Retail flower prices have seen a 64% rise since March, yet the associated costs haven’t risen at the same rate. This has led to better profitability margins, Zuanic said, especially for retailers.

Store brands, in particular, have carved a niche in the market, claiming a 25.8% share in flower sales as of August. The figure is a notable rise from the 22.2% in March.

“We realize some of this analysis may be distorted as more growers allocated more output to their own stores,” he added.

Across different product segments, that consistent trend of retail price growth against stable costs is evident. Vape products, for instance, saw a 13% increase in retail prices between March and August. The edibles category outpaced this with a 35% retail price growth in the same period, while pre-rolls experienced a 26% jump. (Full Story)

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