Photo by Ken Blaze

Nearly two dozen states have now ended cannabis prohibition, with Connecticut being the latest to green-light adult-use consumption, possession and to lay the groundwork for sales for people 21 and over.

While more states continue to legalize adult-use cannabis, the process is not without its challenges, or challengers.

Take for instance South Dakota. In November 2020, voters approved both medical and adult-use cannabis measures, but Gov. Kristi Noem’s office allowed a challenge to the recreational amendment to proceed, which argued that it included more than one subject and therefore violated state law. In February, a circuit court judge ruled in favor of the challenge, and the fate of the measure is now in the hands of South Dakota’s Supreme Court justices, who are expected to announce a decision as this issue goes to press.

Even when there are no judicial challenges, adult-use sales programs can, and often do, take years to establish once they are approved. Licenses in the highly anticipated New York program are stalled, according to a report by Politico, because of disagreements over who should oversee the newly created Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board, which will have jurisdiction over the adult-use and already established medical and hemp programs.

However, cultivators working in states that move fast have their own hurdles to jump.

As described in this month’s cover story, after voters approved Arizona’s adult-use cannabis program last November, sales started in the state just 80 days later. Companies expected to have more time to prepare, and obstacles like testing bottlenecks compounded product shortages and other problems. Even with nearly a decade of experience in the medical market, Lilach Mazor Power, founder and CEO of the Giving Tree Dispensary based in Phoenix, struggled to keep up with the overwhelming demand that met them in January, when double the number of customers they typically see in a day arrived to purchase the state’s newest legal products.

When asked what tips she would give herself if she could go back in time, she noted a few, including hire more people than needed and plan for testing and packaging delays. But also, “I don’t know how we could have been ready for the quick turnaround Arizona pulled between the bill passing to implementing, but I guess that’s just part of it,” she said.

Since the rapid rollout, Giving Tree has more than recovered, and is refining operations to meet the continuing demand while it revisits and improves its products and processes.

With many states due to come online during the next several months, there’s a lot business owners looking to launch or expand in these states can learn from Power’s experience. She will share tips and lessons learned from the quick transition from medical to adult use at the upcoming Cannabis Conference, which takes place Aug. 24-26, 2021, at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.

While there are many uncertainties when entering new markets, the one thing she said she could promise anyone who is in the cannabis industry is this: “It is never boring.”