Cannabis Dispensaries Growth Study 2021

By Kait Hobson

February 05, 2021

cannabis dispensary growth 2021

The legality of cannabis and its effect on the American population has been one of the most highly contested political topics in recent years. Some companies have capitalized on this growing industry: GW Pharmaceuticals, Aphria, and NuLeaf Naturals are listed as some of the fastest-growing cannabis businesses in the sector's slow but steady journey towards legalization. According to TechCrunch, the legal cannabis market employs over 243,000 people nationwide, with more jobs expected to be available in the coming years as dispensaries and cultivation farms continue to multiply. To better understand where the market is headed and future business opportunities in the cannabis industry, Kisi conducted a study that dives further into the available data. Some of the major insights and statistics gained from the study include:

Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, the cannabis industry has steadily gained momentum across the U.S. From 2014 to 2018, the number of licenses in the state alone for people growing recreational cannabis rose exponentially—more than 400%—local Denver news site Westworld reported.


In 2016, the recreational cannabis industry continued to flourish. Forbes notes that North American users spent more than $6.7 billion on legal cannabis products, demonstrating a rise of almost 35% from the previous year. At the time, cannabis was only legal in Washington and Colorado, which is where most of these sales took place. By the end of 2016, Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota legalized medical marijuana use, and four other states legalized it for recreational use. Four years later, many more states have joined these ranks, and the November 2020 election saw numerous others begin to decriminalize cannabis or make strides to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana.

states where marijuana is legal

As of Election Day in the United States, Esquire reports that the following states have legalized the recreational and/or medical use of marijuana.

State

Recreational

Medical

Alaska

Yes

Yes

Arizona

Yes

Yes

Arkansas

No

Yes

California

Yes

Yes

Colorado

Yes

Yes

Connecticut

No

Yes

Delaware

No

Yes

District of Columbia

Yes

Yes

Florida

No

Yes

Hawaii

No

Yes

Illinois

Yes

Yes

Louisiana

No

Yes

Maine

Yes

Yes

Maryland

No

Yes

Massachusetts

Yes

Yes

Michigan

Yes

Yes

Minnesota

No

Yes

Mississippi

No

Yes

Missouri

No

Yes

Montana

Yes

Yes

Nevada

Yes

Yes

New Hampshire

No

Yes

New Jersey

Yes

Yes

New Mexico

No

Yes

New York

No

Yes

North Dakota

No

Yes

Ohio

No

Yes

Oklahoma

No

Yes

Oregon

Yes

Yes

Pennsylvania

No

Yes

Rhode Island

No

Yes

South Dakota

Yes

Yes

Utah

No

Yes

Vermont

Yes

Yes

Virginia

No

Yes

Washington

Yes

Yes

West Virginia

No

Yes

Access Control for Cannabis and Grow Facilities

Discover how Kisi secures grow facilities around the country.

Dispensaries By State

Now, as more states continue to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, the number of dispensaries across the United States has reached an all-time high. With New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana legalizing recreational marijuana in the November 2020 election, details Forbes, the legal cannabis market will continue to grow steadily.


Oregon has one of the fastest growing markets and leads the country in the number of dispensaries per capita. In their detailed analysis, Verilife counts 16.5 dispensaries for every 100,000 people, with more than 660 dispensaries scattered throughout the state. Oklahoma follows with the second-highest number of dispensaries per capita, at 15.6 per 100,000 people. As more states relax their cannabis laws, we should see other states start to catch up to these two in terms of number of retailers. However, dispensaries per capita isn’t the only data pointing to promising signs of growth in the cannabis market. Despite having lower rates of dispensaries per capita than in Oregon and Oklahoma, the Accounting Institute for Success reveals California, Washington, and Colorado all reached an impressive milestone in 2019: each state generated a lifetime marijuana tax revenue of over $1 billion.

number of cannabis dispensaries by state
number of cannabis dispensaries by state for every 1 million people in the US

Even though cannabis is legal in individual states, it is still illegal under federal law, meaning banks are not legally allowed to accept money from cannabis-associated businesses, Investopedia informs. This makes it nearly impossible for cannabis dispensaries and farms to build up legitimate businesses or receive the various protections and insurance that traditional businesses are afforded by the government. Therefore, the $7.4 billion that New Frontier Data reports were spent on recreational marijuana in 2019 was all generated from cash-only transactions. This leaves most cannabis businesses in a dangerous position in terms of liability and security, Inc. Magazine found. This is why many dispensaries and grow facilities are turning to advanced security technologies to deter theft and other criminal activity. In fact, an increasing number of growing facilities and cannabis processing plants have implemented cloud-based access control to secure their valuable storage.”. Currently, Facebook and most national publications and social media sites will not accept cannabis-related ads, however, Instagram doesn’t have as strict regulations. Many cannabis companies have started to take advantage of the photo-sharing app to promote their content, making it one of the industry’s most effective marketing tools. This is how cannabis-based companies still manage to publicize to states with very few dispensaries per state like Illinois (14), Rhode Island (3), and New Jersey (6).

Number of dispensaries by state

Future of the Market: Today-2025

Because of the banking struggles that many cannabis companies face, some of them are having trouble producing any sustainable growth. Even if a cannabis company does find a bank that is willing to work with them, FindLaw notes that it’s not uncommon for the banks to cease business relations without warning. Most large financial institutions, like Visa, MasterCard, and major American banks are afraid to work with anyone associated with the cannabis industry because of the federal risk involved.

Many of these problems could be resolved if cannabis became legal at the federal level. According to research by New Frontier Data, if cannabis sales were taxed at 15% at the federal level, more than $46 billion could be generated in federal tax revenue. That’s money that could be used to fund infrastructure projects, education, and healthcare. Another plus to legalization? As mentioned earlier, there are currently more than 243,000 full-time U.S. workers employed by the cannabis industry. Legalization across all 50 states means that number could jump to one million by 2025. In fact, Leafly Jobs Report 2020 already shows that number multiplying 250% from 2018-2028. With full legalization, the U.S. could possibly exceed these projections.

The future of the cannabis market isn’t just limited to the United States. According to a 2020 report by Grand View Research, the global legal marijuana market should reach $73.6 billion by 2027. The legal cannabis market is growing across the world, albeit slowly. For example, Marijuana Business Daily breaks down Europe’s $260 million medical cannabis market in 2019, but recreational cannabis use is still largely illegal throughout the EU. However, Luxembourg, a small country with a population of 600,000, unveiled a plan to legalize recreational cannabis, while a number of other countries—including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the U.K.— have all recently legalized medical marijuana products, with France and Spain making strides to legalize its use as well.

We should start to see recreational marijuana use become more widespread in Asia as well. The Thai Inquirer explains that Thailand became the first Asian country early in 2019 to legalize medical marijuana, closely followed by South Korea. Japan and Singapore have also passed legalization that allows for research into certain cannabis compounds. Thanks to Thailand’s first step to revolutionizing the Asian cannabis market, other countries seem to be looking to follow in their footsteps.


Back in U.S. territory, sentiment towards cannabis use is radically changing. In 1969, just 12% of the population thought cannabis should be legal. Now, a 2020 Gallup poll conducted before the November election shows 68% of Americans firmly believe that marijuana should be legalized, which is double what it was in 2000.

percentage of the US population in support of legal marijuana from 1969 to present

Final Thoughts

After extensive research about the cannabis industry and the advanced technology services that dispensaries need, Kisi believes the future of the cannabis industry is positive, especially as more states legalize the recreational or medical use of cannabis each year. However, the journey to federally legalized marijuana has proven to be a long one, despite experiencing a steady rise in public support. With the 2020 election of President Joe Biden, though, the cannabis industry is hopeful that legislative change on the federal level is coming in the near future. However, there are still a number of states vehemently opposed to recreational cannabis use, and federal decriminalization would not necessarily change the legal status of cannabis in these locations. But as more dispensaries are added per state, we can assume that the cannabis industry will become a driving force in the national economy, helping to create tens of thousands of jobs. As marijuana becomes closer and closer to being fully legalized, it will have growing power to change our economy as well as our culture.

Kait Hobson
Kait Hobson

Workplace Innovation

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