18 January 2022 |

Medical Cannabis Data

By Matthew O'Brien

MEDICAL CANNABIS

Medical Cannabis Data

Breaking down the most up to date medical cannabis patient data in the U.S…

It’s easy to get swept up in the adult use cannabis market today.

After all, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to grow like a weed.

Nonetheless, over half the U.S. has a medical cannabis program in place with the state of Missouri alone having generated $200 million USD in medical cannabis sales since cannabis retail stores first opened in October 2020. 

Medical Cannabis Patients…

We will likely never know the exact number of medical cannabis patients in the United States, though Marijuana Policy Project’s last estimate in May 2021 was over 5 million people. 

Here’s why these numbers are so difficult to estimate:

Different data at different dates

No laws exist today requiring states to release cannabis patient demographics data.

Thankfully, most states do release these numbers, however, they do so at different times, and in different ways.

That might be through press releases, correspondence with media, or updated patient counters on their website. 

In Connecticut, the number of medical cannabis patients is updated each week on their publicly-accessible portal with 53,222 patients having registered in the state.

In contrast, neither California, Maine or Washington requires medical cannabis patients to formally register into a database.

Medical Cannabis Data In Florida

Florida has the second highest number of medical cannabis patients in the U.S, second only to California. 

There are over 440,000 medical cannabis patients in the state of Florida which is home to 21.48 million people — meaning over 1/50 people living in the state have so far obtained medical cannabis.

From a study in 2020, anxiety, stress, depression, pain, and insomnia are among the top reasons Floridians are currently turning to medical cannabis.

Support For Medical Cannabis…

91% of Americans support legalizing medical cannabis.

This should come as no surprise given the wide range of use cases for medical cannabis with 51% of cancer patients in the U.S reporting medical cannabis is “very good” for managing their symptoms.

Additionally, 82% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans support legalizing medical cannabis, with close to 16% of all troops deployed Iraq & Afghanistan having PTSD

Our Take

America prides itself in its democratic values, however, the inability on the part of policy makers to legalize medical cannabis comes in direct conflict with these values with 91% of the nation supporting this change.

Thankfully, states continue to demonstrate a willingness to lead the charge on medical cannabis with 36 states having so far legalized medical cannabis.

CANNABIS PROFESSIONALS

The Move Towards Unionization In Cannabis

The growing movement towards employees unionizing in cannabis…

Labor unions exist to create a workplace that favors and protects workers.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, they are becoming more and more popular in an effort to create a suitable working environment for industry professionals.

The United Food & Commercial Workers International (UFCW), a large American labor union, represents approximately 1.3 million U.S. workers, and it now includes tens of thousands of cannabis businesses.  

Labor Peace Agreements

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1291 in 2019.

This bill requires cannabis companies with more than 20 employees in the state to sign a labor peace agreement with a union.

In New York, cannabis companies are required to agree to Labor Peace Agreements (LPAs) for all cannabis industry employees.

LPAs don’t create unions, or encourage them, but rather make room for professionals to create a union if it’s in their best interest.

In addition, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, all have similar measures encouraging unions in cannabis. 

Why Unionize?

A September 2021 report from the Economic Policy Institute highlights the benefits of unionization for cannabis workers.

It compares the struggles of cannabis professionals to those in agriculture and “other industries with parallels to cannabis” and calls for unionization as a means to solve these issues.

Here are some of the major reasons why:

The cannabis industry has traditionally low pay for certain jobs, like budtenders, with few workplace benefits. 

Additionally, many cannabis professionals are asked to sign short term contracts to help with the harvesting of cannabis.

Per the report, cannabis cultivation workers could make an estimated $7,030 USD more in annual wages should they unionize. 

What Are Cannabis Professionals Paid?  

Per the same report, the following are the wages cannabis industry professionals are currently receiving.

  • Grower: $15 – $22 / hourly.
  • Trimmer: $14 – $19 / hourly.
  • Budtender: $14 – $18 / hourly.
  • Extraction Tech: $16.80 – $25 / hourly.

Why Shouldn’t Cannabis Businesses Unionize? 

Running a unionized operation is 25% – 35% more expensive than a non-unionized business, according to research.

Operating a cannabis company is already a challenge in the U.S with states so aggressively taxing cannabis, and these additional costs may be enough to make a once viable business non-viable.

These costs of a unionized operation commonly come in the form of:

  • Larger HR staff.
  • Specialized labor attorneys.
  • Increased involvement with regulatory agencies.

For an employee, the average annual cost of union fees is $400, or 2 hours of pay each month with some sources calculating union fees eat approximately 1.5 – 2.5% of your total pay.

For cannabis professionals who are already earning lower-than-average wages, this $400 in annual fees without any guarantees of being able to increase their earnings can be a tough expense to justify.

Our Take

There are many pros and cons to employees unionizing.

In the case of cannabis, albeit employees may be able to increase their earnings — this additional expense might be enough to put a company under thus negatively impacting these employees in the long run.

Nonetheless, this industry needs to come together and establish standards acceptable to our working professionals.

CANNABIS TAXATION

Cannabis Sales Taxes

Breaking down the benefactors of cannabis sales taxes in 5 more states…

There’s a long list of benefits from legalizing cannabis.

Medical and adult use consumers have access to a safe plant they love, there’s an economic boost in the local communities, and the state & local governments get a nice cash windfall every year from sales tax revenue. 

So, where does the sales tax revenue go in each state? Here’s a snapshot:

*Note: These numbers represent adult cannabis sales, not medical sales. Some figures do not account for state and local sales taxes.

Alaska, 731,500 people

The state of Alaska generated approximately $24,121,616 in sales tax revenue from adult use cannabis sales in 2021. 

  • (25%) goes to the general fund.
  • (25%) to drug treatment and cannabis education programs.
  • (50%) to the Department of Public Safety, Health and Social Services, and Department of Corrections.

California, 39.51 million people

California generated approximately $976,811,788 in sales tax revenue from adult use cannabis in 2021. 

  • (20%) goes to public safety.
  • (20%) goes to programs supporting the environment.
  • (60%) of California’s sales tax revenue goes to anti-drug programs.
  • Additional revenue is used to cover the costs associated with regulation of adult use cannabis, and cannabis research.

Colorado, 5.75 million people

Colorado generated approximately $423 million in sales tax revenue from adult use cannabis sales in 2021. 

  • (10%) to local governments.
  • (90%) goes to state governments, via the following breakdown:
    • (12.59%) goes to the states public school fund.
    • (15.56%) goes to the states government’s general fund.
    • (71.85%) goes to health care, monitoring cannabis health effects, health education, substance abuse prevention, treatment programs, & law enforcement. 

Washington, 7.61 million people

Washington state generated approximately $480,851,220 in sales tax revenue from adult use cannabis in 2021. 

  • (58%) goes to health care.
  • (3%) to local governments.
  • (0.4%) to research and testing.
  • (2.9%) to licensing & enforcement.
  • (33.4%) to the state’s general fund.
  • (2.2%) to education and prevention.

Looking forward…

Cannabis sales taxes continues to be a significant source of revenue for state and local governments, and there have been millions of dollars poured into incredible endeavors like improving public education, environmental groups, and to causes that benefit those most impacted by The War on Drugs.

That said, finding exactly where this tax revenue is being funneled isn’t easy.

There’s not a one-stop-shop to see where cannabis tax dollars are going and would encourage businesses, consumers, activists, and cannabis professionals to continue asking for greater transparency and accountability with our tax dollars. 

Our Take

While it would be amazing to see states embracing cannabis in recognition of its safety profile and the medical benefits cannabis provides, in reality it seems the primary motivating factor is the additional tax revenue.

Regardless of these intentions, this outcome is undoubtedly what cannabis activists have long campaigned for — the legalization of cannabis.