The state of New York has enrolled more than 7,000 patients in its medical marijuana program (0.035% of the state’s population) since Governor Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act in 2014. In Minnesota, where 2015 was the state’s first full year of operations for the medical marijuana program, only 2,800 patients (0.051% of the state’s population) have enrolled.

Compare those numbers to the nearly 800,000 patients enrolled in the medical marijuana program in California (1.938% of the state’s population) and the over 100,000 patients enrolled in Colorado’s program (1.976% of the state’s population), and it’s clear that some states’ medical marijuana programs are lagging very far behind others. What’s going on?

Five Key Growth Limitation Factors

Using data from the Cannabiz Media database, a few primary factors can be attributed to the growth, breadth, and depth of a state’s medical marijuana program. If a state is lagging in one of these areas, the growth potential of the program will undoubtedly be limited:

1. Age of Program

The longer medical marijuana has been available in a state, the larger the market in that state is likely to be. This is common sense. A program that has been around for a short time hasn’t had time to grow and mature. For example, the programs in Minnesota and New York are very new compared to the programs in California and Colorado.

2. Conditions Covered

In Cannabiz Media’s research, four key conditions were identified as needing to be covered in order for a state’s program to have a chance to grow significantly. If a state covers all of these conditions, its medical marijuana program has a much greater chance of thriving than a program in a state that covers one, two, three, or none of these conditions.

However, the most important condition that must be covered by far is chronic pain. Across the country, 59% of medical marijuana patients are registered for chronic pain. Initially, New York’s medical marijuana program did not cover chronic pain, which would certainly limit its growth potential.

3. Program and License Structure

Some states require extreme restrictions related to marijuana licenses for growing, manufacturing, and dispensing. Some states require that a single license holder controls the marijuana from seed to sale. Cannabiz Media refers to these as “stacked licenses” – where a single license holder must control cultivation, processing, and dispensing.

Stacked license structures make it much easier for states to monitor activity in the industry, but the structure also limits competition and market growth. New York and Minnesota are two of the 12 states that require stacked licenses. California and Colorado both allow partial stacking of licenses.

4. Caregiver Growing

When caregivers are allowed to grow medical marijuana and provide it to their patients, it increases access to the marijuana. Naturally, there is a greater chance for market growth when access increases.

Of the 27 states that have approved medical marijuana, 16 allow caregivers to grow marijuana for their personal/patient use. Neither New York nor Minnesota are included on that list. On the other hand, both California and Colorado allow caregivers to grow marijuana for up to five patients.

5. Access

Again, people need to have access to a product in order to buy it. If they can’t buy it, the market can’t grow. In some states, there are far fewer doctors registered to recommend medical marijuana then in others, and it can be difficult to find participating doctors in many states. Furthermore, some states have licensed very few dispensaries, which means patients might have to drive hours to purchase medical marijuana.

Currently, there are only 17 dispensaries across the entire state of New York (growing to 20 in the near future and to 40 if the state’s expansion plans come to fruition according to The Washington Post). In Minnesota, there were only three locations across the state where patients could get medical marijuana in 2015. By July 2016, that number had only grown to six. A state’s medical marijuana program can only expand so much when there are just six locations selling the product across nearly 87,000 square miles as is the case in Minnesota.

Not All States are Alike

While these five factors are directly affecting the growth of the marijuana industry in many states, they’re not the only factors, nor are they impacting every state. This is an industry filled with state-by-state nuances, and it is absolutely safe to say that no two states are alike.

To make sense of all of these nuances, Cannabiz Media is evaluating these factors and more in an upcoming report for all 27 states that have approved medical and/or recreational marijuana. Subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss its release!

Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.