Reflections From A Cannabis Cactus Road-Trip Exploring Southwest Cannabis Culture
I'm driving through New Mexico and I've stopped at dispensaries in towns such as Las Cruces, Roswell, Ruidoso and Albuquerque. The nice thing about New Mexico dispensaries is that there's just about one on every corner or tucked into any neighborhood directly. Most residents will hardly have to access the main road to visit a dispensary and procure some pretty nice cannabis medicine. I'll admit that while New Mexico is not serving the creme de la creme top tier of cannabis, what they do have is steady 25% THC exotic and new genetics coming in every day. I picked up an eighth of Orange Cookies and Tropicana Cherries. The Cherries was euphoric and awakening like the sativa hybrid it is expected to be. I was also pleased with the build-outs of these dispensaries; while there are so many they are not operating out of mobile trailers like we have seen in some locations. By the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation casinos there are beautiful new dispensaries with all of the modern products available. Being so close to the Texas state border makes it easy for Texas residents to have access to cannabis. Cannabis is still illegal in the state of Texas, but has been decriminalized in many municipalities where County DA will no longer prosecute for possession. However, please be careful, as there are some counties in Texas that still maintain a zero tolerance policy with cannabis. Arizona and California both maintain less retail locations that are overseen with some of the strictest regulatory committees appointed by the state.
As of 2023, there are currently 143 dispensaries active in the state of Arizona with 70 plus in the greater Phoenix area. Arizona dispensaries are more concentrated in the city with very few options for rural customers. On the contrary, New Mexico has done a great job with providing access to cannabis with dispensaries serving nearly every inhabited county in the state.
Southern California has about the same number of licensed dispensaries as the state of Arizona. San Diego and its surrounding areas make up about 130 licenses operating in 2023. The entire state of California posts about 1,000 licensed dispensaries within its borders serving its 40 million state residents.
Oklahoma was by far the most liberal with granting cultivation and retail cannabis licenses at the inception of their program. Today the framework has changed to slow new licenses being awarded. The state has over 12,000 operating cannabis businesses with 7,000 cultivations, and just north of 3,000 dispensaries in the state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma also has widespread access to cannabis with dispensaries in every part of town in every County. However, some of these dispensaries are less than appealing in both experience and product quality. Oklahoma does have many nice dispensaries, but with 3,000+ locations, cannabis enthusiasts may have to do a bit more research to find a proper fit.
Colorado has over 1,000 license dispensaries with about 60% recreational and 40% medical providers.
Oregon has the most dispensaries per capita in the United States, with over 16 dispensaries per 100,000 residents. A close second in the Southwest is Oklahoma, with 15.5 dispensaries for every 100,000 residents. Every state in the Southwest has ample access to cannabis, but Colorado and Oklahoma shoppers can basically walk out their back door and into a dispensary.
Cannabis access in the markets is important in rural areas because some patients are not able to drive to a dispensary, and if they are, perhaps they're not able to drive much beyond their own neighborhood. This applies to many people of ages 55 and over who still want cannabis for medicine and pleasure like anyone else. A smaller percentage of patients may also not be able to walk to the dispensary no matter how close it is. Those who require special assistance must be served in the same capacity.
Let's encourage regulators to prioritize access to medicine throughout their states and not concentrated in the cities. There has to be a balance of providing a service and making a profit. In order to attract the best operators and cultivators and retailers, legislators must prioritize the needs of their customers.
I believe that Oklahoma has the most dispensaries, New Mexico has the most welcoming dispensaries, Arizona and Las Vegas have the most unique dispensaries, and California has the best product. Improvements that have been made in the last few years have made quality cannabis access possible in Oklahoma and New Mexico. A couple years ago, dispensary doors were open, but the product on the shelves was so dated due to lack of cultivating operators. That is the most improved aspect of the cannabis retail markets in the southwest. California and Arizona are struggling with over-taxation and over-regulation and dropping prices in a saturated market. These things combined have made those two states more difficult for establishing new retail outlets.
Our hope is that the federal framework for legal cannabis will include the best that each of these states has to offer. We will continue making these reports based on fiscal and customer feedback metrics to show advancement of the legal markets over time.
Cannabis cactus magazine serves as a comprehensive report for the products and cannabis businesses within the Southwest and beyond. In 2023 we are growing our data points to include every retail and medical marijuana state in the US, as well as territories such as Puerto Rico, and countries such as Mexico, Canada and our most popular, Spain.