Even the numbers are high: retail sales of cannabis in the United States and Canada trend up, up, and up. Cannabis — in abundant quantities — has become the sweet spot in a relatively dire year.
Recreational adult-use kicked off in October 2018, and it’s grown steadily since. According to sales data from Statistics Canada, cannabis retailers sold over $201 million of products in June, an eight percent increase from May’s (then-record) sales high.
In the United States, booming sales trends are mirroring that of Canada. Over the past few months, sales of recreational adult-use cannabis have topped record highs, and some of that is related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These trends span across states, including California, Colorado, Illinois, and Oregon.
California is in the midst of multiple challenges involving the cannabis industry. Still, most of that has to do with adjusting cannabis-generated tax revenue due to a surge in sales related to pre-lockdown “panic buying” and local marketplace bans on cannabis, even though the state voted to legalize the plant in 2016. Despite these minor hiccups, California topped $319 million in sales in May. BDSA predicts the state’s sales will top $3.6 billion in 2020, up from $2.9 billion in 2019.
Oregon legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2015, and sales have been steady since. For the first time in May, sales broke the $100 million mark, topping out at $103 million. June was another strong month and exceeded $100 million in sales. All in all, sales were up 60% from May 2019. Like many other states with regulated recreational cannabis markets, Oregon considered cannabis (and auxiliary businesses) essential during the pandemic’s lockdown. The jump in sales figures is attributed, in part, to folks purchasing more cannabinoid-containing products, due to anticipated shortages and as an effective coping strategy.
Colorado, which legalized recreational cannabis way back in 2012, saw a boost to sales by over $50 million from April to May, closing out that month with an impressive $192 million in sales.
Illinois, the newest kid on the block (legalization just kicked off on January 1, 2020), tallied $44 million in sales for May and then topped off June with a respectable $47.6 million in legal cannabis sales. Not too shabby for an industry that’s only existed in the legal realm for (based on the sales figures) half a year.
The COVID-19 pandemic might have helped with a seismic shift in purchasing habits. Metrics compiled by New Frontier Data supports the idea that consumers purchased their weed from licensed retailers instead of the illicit marketplace. Their recent economic analysis noted, “One unanticipated effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the growth acceleration of legal cannabis markets (and erosion of the illicit markets) in those states which have activated both medical and adult-use sales.”