Here’s an update on two very different places – New York and Oklahoma– as they struggle to establish a reasonable degree of control over a commercial cannabis market that’s experiencing explosive growth in their own states. In one, most of the growth has occurred since the drug was legalized for recreational use. In the other, it’s the ‘medical’ side of the marijuana industry that’s been expanding like Topsy – willy-nilly, without much planning or structure.
Oklahoma, you go first.
This is the place where medical pot has held sway. Picture a state with 4 million residents and 12,000 cannabis businesses, all of the medical variety. Recreational use, surprisingly enough, is still illegal. Result: Oklahoma has the nation’s highest per capita rate of medical marijuana enrollment.
Maybe the pot in Oklahoma is a whole lot more effective as a healing agent than in other places. Or perhaps it’s being put to other uses. An explanation from one legal website: “…lax laws concerning medical use make it reasonably accessible to anyone dealing with pain, anxiety, or other symptoms that marijuana can aid.” Does that include wanting to get high?
The taxpayers have in fact wondered about the legitimacy of all this. Folks in State government have assigned blame to the industry itself, for not following the rules. Industry figures have turned around and blamed Government for failing to adequately enforce those rules.
An ingenious argument: “it’s not my fault. You should have stopped us.”
Meanwhile, advocates continue to push for full legalization. I suppose that would at least lower medical enrollment. As has happened in other states where, post-legalization, many former medical marijuana patients simply retired their cards in favor of cheaper ‘recreational’ offerings.
In New York City, where recreational use is fully legal, that’s where the growth is. Medical marijuana enrollment is down. Excessive restrictions take the blame, fairly or not. Here’s something on New York’s experience:
Now, the article claims, New York finds itself in the grip of a “quasi-lawless period when the state’s prohibition on pot is gone but there is no official market yet.” Meaning licenses to sell aren’t readily available, and many vendors have simply gone ahead and opened their doors without a license.
The urgency, I’m told, is because cannabis entrepreneurs expect to see an influx of bigger, better-funded, publicly-traded cannabusinesses soon. That’ll include glitzy retail outlets. It’s expected to drive out many of the little guys, as the marketplace ‘shakes out’.
The article does a nice job of describing just how far cannabis sales have penetrated the fabric of daily life in New York City. “On a Wednesday night in mid-January in Times Square,” Forbes reports, “about a dozen dealers pepper the sidewalk, standing behind folding tables covered with packages of California cannabis, as if they were selling sunglasses and pashminas, but with aggressive sales tactics like the performers in bad Elmo costumes.”
There’s money to be made, after all.