Minnesota cannabis regulators say state will likely need 381 dispensaries at a minimum

A person lights a marijuana joint
Brittany Weichel blocks the wind while Tara Eck lights a joint during a celebration at First Avenue in Minneapolis marking the legalization of recreational marijuana on Aug. 1.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

State cannabis regulators set what will likely be the floor for new cannabis dispensaries in Minnesota: 381.

In a report issued this week, the Office of Cannabis Management estimated the number of retailers that would be needed to meet requirements in state law. But the report’s authors also said the Legislature could move to increase that number to match demand. 

Under the law, local governments in the state need to have a retail registration for every 12,500 people. Factoring in the population across towns and cities, that floor came out to 381 retailers.

It’s the first time the office provided a ballpark figure on how many cannabis dispensaries could be approved when the state licenses them to open. The office expects cannabis dispensaries will be able to get up and running next year after the office issues applications and sets rules for retailers.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

Estimating the cannabis demand isn’t easy because it’s been an illicit substance for so long. Minnesota made marijuana possession and use legal for adults 21 and up starting in August, although for now it’s a grow-your-own proposition. Lower-dose edible cannabis products have been available for sale since 2022.

The lack of a regulated market for full-fledged marijuana complicates things, the report said.

“It is impossible at this time to understand the necessary supply of cannabis vs. hemp needed to accommodate total demand without further research,” the report authors wrote. “Until the adult-use market is launched and sales for both types of outlets can be thoroughly assessed, estimates of adequate product supply and outlets for the adult-use program will likely be inaccurate.”

As part of the report, the regulators also surveyed adults who use cannabis in Minnesota to discern more information about demand and where consumers get their supply.

Between June and September of last year, 494 Minnesotans were polled about their cannabis consuming habits. Of those who said they’d used cannabis at least once in the last year, 83 percent said they used cannabis within a month and 40 percent said they used cannabis daily or almost daily.

The group said they most commonly bought cannabis from a dealer, retailer that currently sells lower-dose cannabis edibles, a medical dispensary or received it from a friend or family member. 

Most of those who used cannabis in the last month said they preferred smoking flower. Vapes and edibles followed in terms of most common ways to consume.