Big Business

Mr. Smith looks at the numbers from the state's year-end medical marijuana report

If you laid all the weed sold in Arizona dispensaries last year end to end, you could make a line of joints from Tucson to Rocky Point. I'm not sure why you would do it, but you could, because it was roughly 170 miles of fatties.

That estimate comes from deep in the recesses of my head via the Arizona Department of Health Services end-of-year medical marijuana report, which came out last week. The state reports about 96,000 ounces sold in the state's 71 dispensaries, or about 3 tons. That's 3 tons of real cannabis, not 3 tons of the schwag the Border Patrol is finding in pick-ups in the desert. About 43,000 people bought that weed, some buying just once and one hittin' it like a champ at 314 buys in 2013. If you are that person and can prove it, email me at

I want to shake your hand.

The patient picture hasn't changed dramatically since last year. At the end of January 2013, we had roughly 36,000 patients; at the end of December, there were 43,000. This is a little troublesome - to me and dispensary operators. I think most people expected more patients by now, but I don't think we should lose faith. Lest we forget, there were exactly zero dispensaries near most potential patients at this time last year. As more dispensaries open, I think more people will get cards for the convenience. I can drop in unannounced in a dozen stores across the city and buy weed. Can you?

The state estimates total sales at about $33 million, but I think that's low. They used a price of $350 per ounce to calculate that. Yes, you can get ounces in dispensaries for $350, but few people ever do. The vast majority of sales are for smaller amounts at higher prices, so if the average were $50 per eighth, the price per ounce goes up to $400. Then the sales estimate rises to something in the neighborhood of $38 million. And a lot of sales were at $18 per gram ($500ish per ounce), so the number could be even higher. This number will soar this year, as we now have many, many dispensaries.

My favorite part of this year-end picture is the number of transactions. It sounds like a lot—422,000 sales—but that number will go much, much higher. There were fewer transactions during the first five months of 2013 combined than in November alone, simply because there weren't many dispensaries. As more shops opened, transaction totals soared. The last three months of the year saw roughly 70,000 transactions each. Extrapolate that, and you get 840,000 transactions for 2014. Add to that the 30ish dispensaries that aren't open yet, and BAM!

*raises pinky to mouth, stares into camera*

One MILLION transactions.

That's a lot of healing and love and money changing hands. Wouldn't it be nice if the state decided to tap all cannabis transactions? Um, hello Gov. Jan, you're missing out on millions of transactions taking place in pot dealers' living rooms, because you force otherwise upstanding, law-abiding citizens to hide and skulk around peeling off 20s from stacks of untaxed cash.

So anyway, the numbers are in and they're up and that's good. DHS Director Will Humble told one newspaper this past week that he's sure recreational users are in the system and that he considers it a "hybrid" medical-recreational system. Interesting. So the system we have is already quasi-recreational.

I don't see any corpses on the sidewalks, do you?

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