Why do some states have medical programs but no dispensaries?

Ruth Lemon
Ruth Lemon - VP of Operations

Sep 18 2021 - 3 min read

Did you know that some states have medical cannabis programs that are up and running without open dispensaries? I know, it sounds unbelievable. And pointless, right? Why get a card if there’s nowhere to purchase your medical cannabis products legally?

We agree with you: Launching a program that allows someone to purchase medical cannabis but without handing out licenses for dispensaries is counterintuitive and poorly planned. But it has happened in more than one state and there is a good reason for it, from a business perspective. After all, having a medical dispensary open before anyone can legally become a patient makes no sense. As a patient, however, we recognize how frustrating it is to feel like business interests trump yours.

The good news is that usually this inconsistency doesn’t last and dispensaries usually open soon after the program goes live. Let’s take a look at some states that have medical marijuana programs but are still in the process of opening their medical dispensaries.

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Georgia Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

Georgia currently has a Low THC program and patients in the state have found the program restrictive and slow to respond to the cultural change we’re seeing around the country. However, in July 2021, they announced that six companies have been approved to open up to 30 dispensaries licensed to sell THC oil. We don’t currently have any open dates but several of the companies who won the licenses are established multi-state operators so you can expect doors to open very soon.

If you live in Georgia, you can get your medical card with Leafwell today.

West Virginia Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

West Virginia passed the Medical Cannabis Act back in 2017 but it took a long time for the program to get up and running. In 2021, patients could start applying for cards but there were no open dispensaries. The state billed this as an “early release” ahead of dispensaries expected to open after October 1st, 2021. They also offered early bird extensions to encourage patients to apply to the program before the dispensaries opened.

Patients who registered by 30th June, 2021, were gifted two free years on their card, in addition to the standard one year. Patients who register by September 30, 2021, will receive one free year on their card. And from October 1, 2021, the cards will be valid only for the standard one year after the dispensaries open. This appears to be a program designed to incentivize patients ahead of time so that they will be ready to buy from the newly opened dispensaries in October 2021.

If you live in West Virginia, you can get your WV medical card with Leafwell today.

Other States Who Opened Programs Before Dispensaries

It’s not rare for the program to launch before the dispensaries do. If adult use is not legal in the state, businesses are going to lose a ton of money if they open before patients can register for medical marijuana cards. Giving patients a head start helps businesses prepare and allows them to hit the ground running.

For example, Virginia is a state that didn’t have dispensaries open until early 2021 but they now have a fully functioning program. South Dakota is due to launch their program later in 2021 and we anticipate the program being live before dispensaries open.

We know it’s frustrating if you’re in a state where it’s hard or impossible to purchase medical cannabis products at this time but the presence of a program is a big step in the right direction. The dispensaries will follow, we promise!

To take advantage of your state’s program from the first day dispensaries are open, we recommend you register ahead of time. That way you’ll be the first through the door as soon as they do open!

Written by
Ruth Lemon
Ruth Lemon

Ruth Lemon has worked in Cambodia and Australia, gaining experience in the non-profit sector, education and international development, and digital marketing. Ruth is helping Leafwell to scale without compromising the customer experience and seeks to create a frictionless customer journey. She now lives in the UK with her rescued Cambodian cat and believes Leafwell is improving access to and understanding of a valuable medical alternative.

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