Eight In Ten Americans Have A Marijuana Dispensary In Their County, And Shops ‘Cluster’ Near Borders With Illegal States, Pew Analysis Shows

Eight in ten Americans now live in a county with at least one marijuana dispensary, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. The analysis also shows that high concentrations of retailers often “cluster” near borders abutting other states that have “less permissive cannabis laws”—indicating that there’s a large market of people who live in still-criminalized jurisdictions who cross state lines to purchase regulated products.

With cannabis still federally illegal, the report underscores the glaring policy disconnect as the number of states that have enacted legalization continues to grow.

Using data from the market research firm SafeGraph and the U.S. Census Bureau, Pew found that 79 percent of Americans live in a county with at least one medical or adult-use marijuana dispensary.

Since Ohio became the latest state to enact legalization last November, 54 percent of the U.S. population resides in a state where recreational cannabis is permitted, Pew said. And 74 percent now live in a state where marijuana is legal for either medical or adult-use purposes.

California stands out among other legal states, with 3,659 dispensaries—”more than double the amount in the next-closest state.”  An entire quarter of all cannabis shops in the U.S. are located in California, and 99.5 percent of Californians have at least one dispensary in their county.

“In fact, a single county in California—Los Angeles County—has more dispensaries (1,481) than any state other than California itself,” Pew found.

Altogether, the U.S. now has nearly 15,000 dispensaries, the analysis concluded.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, holds the record for most medical marijuana dispensaries per capita, with 36 shops for every 100,000 residents.

Notably, the report also found that one in five dispensaries across the country are “located within 20 miles of a state border,” with 29 percent of those border dispensaries neighboring states with “less permissive cannabis laws.”

That signals some strategic thinking on the part of the industry, with businesses seemingly aiming to capture the out-of-state consumer base in places where cannabis either isn’t available or with restrictive medical programs.

“For example, Indiana, Kansas and Texas all have restrictive marijuana laws but are bordered by multiple states that have legalized the drug for recreational or medical purposes,” Pew said. “In fact, a person residing in one of these three states can find more than 100 dispensaries within 20 miles of the state’s borders.”

Also, while early in the legalization movement some raised concerns that the industry would be overly represented in low-income areas, as has been the case for liquor stores, the analysis found that the situation is more nuanced.

“In four states that have legalized marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes—Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia—median annual household incomes are at least $20,000 lower in areas with high concentrations of dispensaries than areas in the state with low concentrations of dispensaries,” it said. “In New Hampshire and New York, by contrast, median household incomes are around $20,000 or more higher in areas with many dispensaries than in areas with few dispensaries.”

Meanwhile, a Gallup poll released last November found that support for marijuana legalization has reached a new record high nationally, with seven in 10 Americans—including a sizable majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents—now backing an end to prohibition.

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