With recreational cannabis sales soaring, Arizona’s medical marijuana industry is struggling to adapt

Medical card-holders are nearly half of what they once were as Arizonans flock to the more expensive recreational weed

By DAVID ABBOTT || Arizona Mirror

Arizona’s commercial marijuana market has gone through a seismic shift since 2021 began. Adult-use and recreational sales have overtaken medical marijuana, as cardholders abandon certifications and established businesses wrestle with the need to change with the times.

Throughout 2022, the Arizona Mirror has tracked a 7-month downward trend in medical marijuana sales, while the recreational market continues to set records.

The medical marijuana certification business has had to deal with economic and legislative dynamics beyond its control, leaving dispensary owners seeking ways to strengthen the flagging sector.

During its heyday in the years after voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in 2010, the number of “qualifying patients” in the state reached more than 295,000 by the end of 2020.

Since that time, the number of people applying for new medical marijuana cards or renewing previously issued cards has fallen nearly by half: In its latest monthly report, the Arizona Department of Health Services shows just 158,154 active cards.

“We’re performing community service at this point, at least in theory,” Sun Valley Health co-founder and CEO Dustin Klein said. “We might as well be a nonprofit.”

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