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Can beverage-only dispensaries bring in new cannabis consumers?

One MA-based operator is about to find out

We’re winding it down for the year. This will be the last Cultivated Daily until January 8th. 

When we come back, we’ll be rolling out the full suite of Cultivated Media programming, starting with regular live streams, webinars, and much. more. So stay tuned for more details in the New Year.

In the meantime, if you can’t get enough of the cannabis industry during the next few weeks, feel free to head over to our YouTube channel, subscribe, and enjoy.

Happy New Year! 

A 6-minute ready from JB and JR

💡What’s the big deal?

Theory Wellness’ beverage-only dispensary

Source: Hi5 Dispensary

What’s happening: Massachusetts-based Theory Wellness is opening a first-of-its-kind beverage-only dispensary in Medford, Massachusetts. Proving that while flower may be top of the food chain in terms of percentage of sales, there’s a time and place for every format.

Why it matters: Beverages are not the largest category of cannabis purchases, but beverages do represent a rapidly-growing part of consumer spending.

According to Headset, cannabis beverages hit the billion dollar sales mark in 2022 and are projected to be close to $4 billion this year. Nothing to sneeze at.

What Cultivated learned: Last month in Las Vegas, Thomas Winstanley, the Chief Marketing Officer at Theory Wellness, joined Cultivated Live to dive deep into the thinking behind their beverage-only dispensary.

Our take: Theory’s Hi5 Beverage Dispensary will be an interesting test-case for format-specific dispensaries. The industry has long wanted to attract less traditional cannabis consumers into dispensaries and perhaps beverage-only dispensaries are one way to do it.

The Cultivated team will keep a close eye and report back on the progress.

Wisconsin’s path to legalization

Driving the news: Wisconsin Republicans are preparing to introduce a medical cannabis legalization bill in 2024, focusing on a limited approach similar to Minnesota's initial medical law.

The context: Three of the four states that border Wisconsin (Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois) either have, or will have, adult-use cannabis.

Soon, Wisconsinites will have no shortage of places to access legal cannabis within a short-ish drive, and will have even more when Minnesota’s adult-use program rolls out (see next story). 

Political landscape: Democratic Governor Tony Evers has been pushing for adult-use legalization. In September this year, he went so far as to Tweet (or is it X?): “An overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites support legalizing and taxing marijuana, much like we already do with alcohol. It's time to join red and blue states across the country and get this done.” It seems Republicans that control the State Assembly would like to make some movement on the issue. This medical cannabis bill is one way they can. 

Why it matters: States like Wisconsin that don’t yet have robust cannabis programs but neighbor adult-use states have a challenging time holding out. In this case, Wisconsinites, and their elected officials, see that that sky hasn’t fallen in the Upper Peninsula or in Illinois, so the pressure is mounting. 

Minnesota cannabis to (hopefully) start in ‘25

Driving the news: Minnesota’s legislature voted to legalize adult-use cannabis this year, after (perhaps inadvertently) legalizing hemp-derived THC edibles and beverages last year.

It looks like adult-use cannabis sales in may start in 2025, even with the absence of a permanent Office of Cannabis Management director. (That’s an entirely different story: Minnesota cannabis director steps down after one day amid report she sold illegal products)

What's next: Like in New York and many other states, getting off the ground can take time. The state is building its cannabis team, with plans to open the application window for cannabis business licenses by the end of 2024.

Why it matters: This move positions Minnesota as a significant, regional player in the growing cannabis market. And they have a pretty interesting head-start in normalizing cannabis. Hemp-derived, THC edibles and beverages are everywhere, including at Total Wine

For more context into what’s happening in Minnesota, check out our recent conversation with Jason Tarasek from Vicente LLP, and formerly of Minnesota Cannabis Law. Watch >>

🎒 What we’re reading

Rhode Island marijuana sales top $100M in Year One of recreational retail | MJ Biz Daily »

Canadian Cannabis Sales Pick Up In October | New Cannabis Ventures »

Connecticut Marijuana Retailers Can Open On Christmas And New Year’s, But Alcohol Stores Must Close | Marijuana Moment »

Ukraine Moves to Legalize Medical Marijuana to Treat Veterans | Bloomberg »

Alberta to allow cannabis sales at adults-only events | CBC »

Newark City Council puts six-month moratorium on new recreational marijuana applications | Newark Advocate »

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