Geolocation of Maryland Medical Marijuana Dispensaries by Community Income and Racial Characteristics: An Ecological Design

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Subst Use Misuse. 2021 Jan 10:1-9. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2020.1868516. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Background: Prior investigations have documented disparities in the supply side of Maryland’s Medical Marijuana program. Initially a disproportionate share of licenses to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana were awarded to Non-Hispanic White owned businesses. The state has implemented measures to ameliorate the inequity by prioritizing license awards to qualified minority owned businesses. Objectives: The objective of this study is to examine the racial and income characteristics of communities where licensed dispensaries are located. We quantify the racial and income characteristics of communities where Maryland medical cannabis dispensaries are located and explore whether Maryland medical marijuana dispensaries disproportionately locate in high-income, majority-White zip codes. Method: Using data from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and the American Communities Survey, we create geocodes for each of the operating dispensaries as of December 2019. We examine the distribution of medical cannabis dispensaries by zip code level household income and zip code level racial distribution. The data set encompasses 85 operating cannabis dispensaries in Maryland and 6.1 million Marylanders distributed across 468 zip codes in 2018-2019. Results: The analysis indicates that dispensaries are concentrated in zip codes whose residents are racially diverse, and with higher concentrations of retail establishments. Conclusion: Community level racial or income disparities in access to medical cannabis were not observed in Maryland. Access to medical cannabis, based on ability to pay out of pocket for the product, may be uneven.

PMID:33427008 | DOI:10.1080/10826084.2020.1868516