By Sam Méndez, Executive Director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project
Our report titled “Estimating Canopy Size for the Washington Medical Marijuana Market” was released back on May 12, 2016, and yesterday the anonymous survey data was made available on our website (see the heading on the right titled “Canopy Study Data”). We received a request via email to provide this data, and provided that person with the data. At that time, in the interest of transparency we figured it best to make the data available for all and easy to obtain, thus we have done so.
To recap, the report estimated that between 1.7 and 2 million square feet of canopy space (meaning, square footage of marijuana plants) would satisfy the current medical marijuana demand in Washington State. The LCB currently has allotted 12.3 million square feet of canopy for the entire regulated marijuana market, so we concluded the current allotment is enough to satisfy the current demand for marijuana, both medical and recreational, for the time being.
When we say the data is anonymous, we mean that the survey results from each dispensary is not listed in order to protect sensitive information such as sales data.
The first document, “List of Dispensaries,” provides the list of dispensaries that we started the survey with, ordered alphabetically. These dispensaries were all gathered via the online directories publicly available on Leafly, weedmaps, and HeadShopFinder. The second document, “Dispensary Survey,” shows the responses received, ordered by call status (meaning the survey response, be it “complete” or “refused to answer” etc.). Note the question headings are on pages 1, 26, and 51.
In the nearly 3 months since the reports release, there was some media attention (see also here), and subsequent to the report’s release the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced that no more producer licenses would be processed for the time being. Naturally this rankled some in the industry, and others feared (and still fear) the implications for patients, and whether they will have access to the products they need.
Since it has only been a few weeks since the July 1 alignment of the medical & recreational systems, it is still too early to tell how the reforms have shaken out. I have heard first-hand about patients’ concerns over the patient registry, access to products, products being taxed, and other issues. To be sure, some of these concerns are well founded, and it’s quite possible that some patients will turn to the black market, which would be a policy failure. But that remains to be seen, and it will be difficult to measure.
That said, these concerns were not affected by our report’s findings, which was a broad view of the market as a whole, and whether the state would fall short of cannabis by total canopy. Nearly 3 months on, our conclusions have proven to be true. We have yet to be confronted with other evidence that shows there were many more dispensaries, or that the state will fall short of cannabis in terms of raw weight. But still, that does not necessarily mean patients will have access to specific strains or products that they are used to, which was beyond the scope of the report. That remains to be seen. There are still opportunities to provide better patient access in a quickly evolving field, particularly when the science is still out on some of cannabis’ claimed medical benefits. More research is needed.
We would love for the opportunity to look further into issues such as new scientific research of cannabis, gaps in the adult use market, patient needs, or to look at the black market itself.