As rough as this year has been for most businesses, the pandemic has pushed legal weed sales to new heights, leading most adult-use states to break sales records that previously seemed impossible.
Between January and October 2020, Colorado's legal weed dispensaries made over $1.8 billion of sales – already exceeding 2019's record total of $1.75 billion. In October alone, the state Department of Revenue reported over $199.7 million in sales, including $170 million of adult-use pot and $38.8 million worth of medical marijuana. If pot shops can keep this same volume of sales up through the last two months of this year, the state will break a new annual record of $2 billion or more.
As impressive as October's figures are, they are a noticeable decline from this summer's record weed sales. Monthly sales began to explode in March, when the state began its COVID lockdown. At first, local retailers believed the sales spike was a temporary result of panic buying, but demand continued to grow throughout the year. In May, Colorado set a new monthly record of $192 million in weed sales, and by July, the state recorded its all-time monthly high of $226 million.
Since July, monthly sales have been cooling off a bit, and October's sales figures are down 3.2 percent from September's total. Retailers believe that demand for legal weed has been shrinking now that the federal government has stopped providing additional unemployment benefits to the millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
“We saw an influx of first-time customers visiting our dispensary and seeking out more information on cannabis,” said Robbie Wroblewski, director of community outreach at Seed and Smith in Denver, to The Denver Post. “Consumers were very open about finding new ways to relax and cope with the pandemic in addition to looking for alternatives to alcohol. We’re also seeing customers demanding quality flower at affordable prices, so they can maintain their high and their wallet.”
But even though sales have been on the decline, Colorado still collected over $35 million in taxes and fees this October, and monthly sales still beat last October's sales total by 33 percent.
It's hard to predict how demand will be affected as the pandemic continues, but several cities are working to implement new measures that can help sales grow into 2021. This week, Denver approved new regulations that allow for weed delivery as well as cannabis lounges, which could open next summer. Other cities have also recently authorized weed delivery services, which could help sales stay strong over the winter.
Most other legal-weed states have also reported record sales in 2020. Oregon has already topped $1 billion in weed sales so far this year, breaking that billion-dollar barrier for the first time in state history. Washington state has reported a 29 percent increase in sales over 2019, and Oklahoma's medical marijuana market has also been making record sales. Analysts predict that US legal weed markets will have sold over $15 billion by the end of 2020, an impressive figure for a country where cannabis is still technically illegal.