Cannabis Legalization Creates New Franchising Opportunities

Franchise industry, franchisors, franchisees

The next U.S. President might not be decided, but one thing was clear in Tuesday’s elections: Americans want access to regulated cannabis. In a clean sweep of approval, five states voted to legalize adult-use (recreational) or medicinal cannabis – Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota.

Recognizing the business opportunity before them and knowing they lack the know-how to successfully operate in the complex space, an influx of prospective dispensary owners have flooded cannabis dispensary franchisor Unity Rd. with interest in bringing the brand to their markets. “The overall acceptance of cannabis has grown immensely over the past few years. With these new states legalizing use, one in three Americans will soon be able to legally purchase [adult-use] cannabis,” said Unity Rd. VP of Franchise Development Justin Livingston.

The onset of the pandemic helped elevate the industry. Even though cannabis isn’t legal everywhere, it was deemed essential in states where it was.  “Being deemed essential was pivotal for the cannabis industry. It opened more eyes to its medicinal values and benefits of it as an alternative to alcohol and traditional medicines. The local advantages that come from a regulated cannabis market, like tax revenues, have become more clear. States are increasingly taking steps toward enacting cannabis legalization,” Livingston said. “The victories we saw this week will inspire states like Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania to move more quickly.”

Livingston suggests interested parties should move quickly. “With these new cannabis markets already drawing vast interest from prospective dispensary owners, those looking to break into the industry should start moving immediately on the necessary steps,” he advises.

Cannabis by state
Arizona: Local voters approved a proposition that legalizes adult-use marijuana in Arizona. Retail sales are anticipated to start in April 2021 or sooner. Existing medical market operators in good standing can submit applications for adult-use sales as soon as January 19, 2021. It is expected that the total Arizona cannabis market will reach $2 billion at maturity.

Mississippi: With around two-thirds of the state in favor of medical marijuana use, Mississippi has until July 1, 2021 to develop regulations for its medicinal marijuana program.

Montana: 57 percent of state voters approved a measure and constitutional amendment to legalize adult-use marijuana. Sales are expected to start in January 2022.

New Jersey: The first state in the mid-Atlantic region to pass adult-use cannabis, New Jersey is now tasked with setting up rules and regulations for the consumer marketplace and determining when they will begin accepting adult-use retail license applications.

South Dakota: A first for the nation, South Dakota voters supported legalizing both medicinal and adult-use cannabis. Medical dispensaries will begin selling cannabis on July 1, 2021, and the state has until April 1, 2022 to develop rules and regulations for selling cannabis to the adult-use market.

Outside of these states, currently available markets are those with open dispensary application cycles or have acquisition opportunities. Livingston says Colorado and Massachusetts are the most accessible for prospective dispenary owners because there are no residency requirements for the dispensary license.

Oklahoma is also available, but requires 75 percent of the business’s ownership to be state residents for two or more years.

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