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Gap Between Adult-Use and Medical Widens as Arizona Nears $1 Billion in Sales

Arizona voters passed legal adult-use cannabis effective in 2020. In the two years since the market launched, it’s dominated the market, often doubling medical’s sales. This common phenomenon raises the question: will medical survive the market?

The State Of The Medical Program

The number of cardholders in the state fell from 144,678 to 136,010 between August and September. According to the September Arizona Department of Health Services report, the number of active cardholders in June was 191,682, which includes sales by the pound as well as the number of qualifying patients.

Since January, when patients purchased 9,273 pounds in nearly 600,000 transactions, the number of pounds of medical marijuana sold has nearly halved to 5,061. This decrease in usage has reflected poorly in MMJ revenue throughout the state as it continues to lag behind the new adult-use market.

Why People Are Making The Transition

Medical cannabis, while an awesome and necessary institution, is expensive and difficult to access. This is the primary driving force behind the patient exodus taking place in Arizona. First of all, the cost of the application and renewal are pretty expensive – $150. Plus, the card expires every two years. Potential patients also need to see a doctor before they can register, and we all know how expensive that can be.

Another potential barrier to the program is the qualifying conditions. Did you know that 12 million Americans are affected by erroneous diagnoses? Getting appropriately diagnosed is more difficult than you might think, and it stands to reason that there are people out there who have been unfortunately excluded from a program that could dramatically improve their quality of life.

Arizona’s recreational market operates under a different set of rules. Anyone over the age of 21 can have 1 ounce or less of flower or 5 grams or less of concentrate. Compared to the 2.5 ounces medical patients are allowed, this might seem like a downgrade, but for most casual smokers, an ounce is more than enough. Plus, if you finish it, you can just buy another one.

Why People Are Making The Transition

Can Medical Survive Legal Recreational Markets?

Medical got used to having a monopoly on the legal market, and the industry may need to downsize to stay competitive. The recreational market is just way more accessible, and it’s cheaper, so consumers are just going to what’s easier. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen recreational markets dominate MMJ, either. It’s actually pretty common when states first introduce recreational markets.

Can Medical Survive Legal Recreational Markets

Why MMJ Needs To Stay

It’s important that medical marijuana continue to exist – these systems are important for medical patients who need access to a robust and transparent medical program. Medical cannabis drives research, protects biodiversity, and ensures appropriate supply for medical patients. Charlotte’s Web, for example, is a CBD-low THC strain often used to treat seizures in children, making it an important strain to invest in. High-THC strains are already becoming more and more popular, so protecting less-profitable strains is super important. There’s also a need for more research on cannabis. The more information, the better! Medical programs often inform research to take place, ensuring its continuity.


Arizona’s medical program needs to stick around. Medical programs are currently facing a lot of risk because of recreational cannabis, but that doesn’t mean the two can’t coexist. There are a lot of potential solutions, like integrating the market, making medical marijuana available at pharmacies, or enabling self-certification as they did in D.C.

Enjoyed that first hit? Come chill with us every week at the Friday Sesh for a freshly packed bowl of the week’s best cannabis news!

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