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Eyes on Arizona

Why Arizona is the hottest state for cannabis right now

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Even though Arizona's cannabis industry has had its fair share of bruises from the last year, it seems the old adage holds true as what has attempted to kill it only makes it stronger.

In a snapshot, Arizona is still one of the largest markets for cannabis in the country.

A patient count quickly approaching 200,000 dwarfs any other medical state (though Michigan's count was around 270,000 before the state went recreational on Dec. 8).

With more than 130 dispensary licenses on the table, only Oregon, Colorado and California can claim they have more places to sell cannabis.

But the size of the Arizona cannabis industry is more than an attractive environment. It's an indication of a robust infrastructure.

Over the years, anti-cannabis politicians have thrown everything they've had at the medical program, and six years later it's as big as it's ever been.

Legal challenges from former Gov. Jan Brewer, then Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, and now from Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk have demonstrated that the original 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act holds up under pressure.

Though the latest challenge from Polk in the case of Rodney Jones rendering concentrates technically illegal has shaken the industry, a pending Arizona Supreme Court hearing could quickly decide the issue.

Additionally, support for reforming the 2010 AMMA has grown within the state legislature and the industry. If reforms are successful in the upcoming session, the Arizona cannabis program could find itself with secure concentrates, mandated testing and perhaps lower card fees.

But the crux of Arizona's attraction is the success of its cannabis companies.

As most medical and recreational markets slowly issue licenses and develop infrastructure, Arizona's market is reaching maturity.

The program has maintained a steady growth in the number of patients, but it is slowing down. With 2020 and another recreational initiative on the horizon, the market sits on the brink of exploding.

That's what has caught the attention of huge cannabis companies from the U.S. and Canada that have been eyeing claims in the state.

Most recently, MedMen acquired Level Up dispensary in October for $33 million. Prior to that, MedMen bought out Chicago-based PharmaCann for $682 million in stock, making it one of the largest cannabis retailers in the country.

Its most promising contender originates in Arizona as Harvest has been snatching up license across the country, now operating in 10 states.

MPX Bioceutical from Canada has bought $48 million worth of Arizona dispensaries in the past couple years, demonstrating international interest in Arizona's market.

Aside from dispensaries, Arizona also has several support businesses with opportunities for national growth.

Jupiter Research in Phoenix, which is one of four distributors of the most popular vape cartridges in the country, was bought out by a cannabis technology company, Tilt Holdings, for $210 million on Jan. 3.

Several companies carve out niches around the cannabis industry, like Hypur, located in Scottsdale, which offers services handling cannabis business accounts for banks.

The success of these companies and the size of the market make for an attractive setting for investors and entrepreneurs alike. With recreational cannabis just around the corner, the state will offer opportunities for both.

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