Florida and Pennsylvania have drawn the most investment from the largest MSOs, according to a Grown In analysis of storefronts owned or operated by publicly traded multi-state operators. But for the most part, a small number of “core states” have attracted intense interest from cannabis companies eyeing future mergers and acquisitions. 

In Florida, where publicly-traded MSOs own 238 dispensaries, the largest operator is Trulieve, with 111 storefront locations, which makes up a whopping 68% of the company’s total 161 locations across the country.

According to a January investor presentation, Trulieve plans to invest in cornerstone states it identifies as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. These are all limited license states – and Florida and Pennsylvania are expected to open up adult-use markets in the near future. 

It’s a tie for second largest legal cannabis retailer in Florida, between Ayr Wellness and Curaleaf, both of which have 43 dispensaries in the state. Curaleaf has the second most dispensaries of all publicly traded cannabis companies, at 119. Today, Florida has 396 total dispensaries.

In Pennsylvania, there are 106 dispensaries owned or managed by publicly traded MSOs. Trulieve has the most dispensaries in the state, at 19, but there’s a smaller gap between the other top MSOs in the state, unlike in Florida. Jushi Holdings operates 18 BEYOND/HELLO dispensaries in the state, followed by Green Thumb Industries with 15 storefronts.  Pennsylvania currently has 163 total dispensaries.

Pennsylvania was described as a so-called core state by Acreage Holdings in a recent 10-Q filing with the SEC, along with Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio. Core states are where a company is focusing its expansion. Acreage’s stated plans did not include Florida, where it completed the sale of its operations for proceeds of $60 million in February 2021.

”The Company utilized the proceeds from the sale of Acreage Florida and its restricted cash to strengthen its balance sheet. During the nine months ended September 30, 2021, the Company reduced its external debt by $46.3 million,” Acreage wrote in the 10-Q report. It also sold its Powell, Ore. dispensary and its cultivation and processing facility in Medford, Ore.

The state with the third largest publicly traded MSOs presence is Illinois, where publicly traded companies own 65 storefronts of the 110 licensed in the state. Curaleaf, Cresco Labs, and Verano Holdings each operate 10 dispensaries in the state. 

Ascend Wellness Holdings, with 8 dispensaries in Illinois, made two acquisitions in the state in 2020, including MOCA LLC in Chicago and also Chicago Alternative Health Center, known as Midway Dispensary. According to an investor presentation, Ascend, operates in five states, has a two-pronged approach to mergers and acquisitions: to optimize scale in existing footprint in Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts, and to expand into other limited license, recreational or near-recreational markets, like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut. 

Arizona and California were respectively the fourth and fifth most popular states for publicly traded MSOs, with California being the only non-limited license state in the top five. Companies with a large presence in California, like Jay-Z’s The Parent Company, for example, have announced intentions to expand their footprint to limited license states in the Northeast, like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut – all of which have recently approved adult-use sales. 
“The Tri-State area of NY, NJ, and CT is expected to be a massive $8.9B market opportunity by 2025 given its nearly 32M population, high cannabis consumption rates, and high household income in the NYC metro area,” The Parent Company wrote in an investor presentation.

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Cynthia Fernandez is a data reporter for Grown In. Previously, she was a politics reporter for Spotlight PA, a nonpartisan newsroom based in Harrisburg and reported at the Boston Globe. In 2019 she graduated...