2020 was a catastrophic year for many (if not most) businesses in the U.S. but not for cannabis. The national cannabis industry was able to not only sustain—but significantly increase—sales nationwide amid a global pandemic, Maryland included.
Between April 2020 and April 2021, Maryland’s medical cannabis dispensaries sold $500 million worth of cannabis. Monthly sales increased from $34 million in April 2020 to about $48.1 million in 2021—that’s about a 40 percent increase.
Medical cannabis dispensaries were deemed an essential business in Maryland back in March 2020, permitting sales to continue without interruption throughout Maryland’s stay-at-home order and subsequent pandemic restrictions.
Data suggests the onset of the pandemic actually bolstered cannabis sales. The biggest single one-month increase in Maryland cannabis sales last year was in March when the pandemic hit and dispensaries sold about $6 million dollars more of cannabis than February 2020.
Maryland’s sales improvements are on par with national cannabis industry growth. A report by cannabis research firm BDS Analytics (BDSA) revealed the U.S. cannabis industry did $17.5 billion in sales in 2020, a 46 percent increase from 2019. At the current growth rate, BDSA projected U.S. cannabis sales to reach $41.3 billion in 2026.
Not only were Maryland’s medical cannabis patients stocking up on products at the start of lockdown, but more people than ever were registering as medical cannabis patients. In the two week span between March 16 and March 31 in 2020, the MMCC registered more than 1,842 new patients, and haven’t registered that many people in two weeks since then.
In January 2020, there were 87,019 people registered to purchase medical cannabis in Maryland. By January 2021, there were 123,525 patients registered–about a 42 percent increase, accounting for that increase in sales.
Acquiring a medicinal cannabis card in Maryland is relatively easy compared to some other medical states. It’s a two step process: register with Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and visit a licensed cannabis physician for a recommendation. Qualifying conditions include anxiety, depression and insomnia and applicants are rarely denied certifications.
The biggest deterrent for people who want a medical certification to purchase cannabis is not a strict application process, rather the $100-$250 in fees required to do so. That, and the fact that cannabis on the illicit market is cheaper than most dispensaries.
About 5 percent of Americans regularly consume cannabis. Applying that statistic to Maryland’s 6 million residents suggests there are 300,000 regular cannabis consumers in the state, though only 123,525 were registered to purchase cannabis legally at the start of the year. If only half of Maryland’s regular cannabis users are purchasing from medical dispensaries, the other half are purchasing from the illicit market.
Considering the relative ease of acquiring a medicinal cannabis card and the postponement of full cannabis legalization in Maryland, the number of registered cannabis patients in Maryland is likely to continue growing. Sales should increase proportionately, unless of course Maryland legalizes adult-use cannabis next year which would spark drastic, exponential growth for the state’s cannabis industry.