Local Bans Encourage Illicit Market

According to data compiled by Whitney Economics and the online content provider Leafly.com, U.S. states with fewer licensed cannabis retail stores per capita are less effective at disrupting illicit market sales than are jurisdictions where shops are more widely available. The report estimates, “States with roughly 20 to 40 legal regulated stores per 100,000 residents, in general, have captured 80 percent to 90 percent of all cannabis sales in the legal market.” By contrast, “States with single-digit stores per 100,000 residents tend to struggle to capture legal sales, with the illicit market still accounting for 30 percent to 50 percent of sales. States with less than one store per 100,000 residents remain dominated by the illegal street market.” California, where nearly 2/3 of cannabis sales are estimated to take place on the illicit market, has just 2 regulated stores per 100,000 residents, unlike other adult use states like Oregon and Colorado. Expansion of regulated retail access got a much-needed boost from the signing of Senate Bill 1186, sponsored by California State Senator Scott Wiener, prohibiting all local California jurisdictions from banning delivery of medicinal cannabis to medicinal patients beginning on January 1, 2024, but California still has a long way to go to expand access.