Montana's adult-use industry has already sold nearly $26 million worth of legal weed this year, according to the state Department of Revenue.
Sales have been going strong ever since adult-use dispensaries opened for business this January. Starting on New Year's Day, customers lined up around the block in subzero temperatures for a chance to sample the first adult-use weed products to ever be sold in the state. Demand stayed strong throughout the month, bringing January’s total sales to an impressive $12.8 million.
Business was so brisk in January that industry insiders predicted that February's sales would drop. But to their surprise, demand continued to grow. The last week in February turned out to be the best week the industry has seen so far, with $3.4 million in sales. This surprise rush brought February's total sales to $13 million, just beating January's total.
“Honestly I thought we would see a decrease in February, just because opening day was so robust,” said J.D. “Pepper” Petersen, the head of the Montana Cannabis Guild, to the Daily Montanan. Jerry Spurlock, owner of the Firefly dispensary, said that his store's sales increased by an “absolutely insane” 20 percent last month.
These two months of sales have already generated an extra $5.2 million in tax revenue for Montana, thanks to the 20 percent state cannabis retail tax. But as adult-use sales have grown, demand for medical pot has slacked off a bit. Medical pot sales dropped to $9.2 million in February, down from $9.7 million the previous month.
Montana's voter-approved legalization measure originally set a start date of October 2021 for recreational sales to begin. Last May, lawmakers amended that law, capping the potency of THC products and delaying the start date until this January. But even with this delay, it only took the Big Sky Country 14 months to get their adult-use industry running. Meanwhile, East Coast states like New York and Virginia are delaying their legal weed rollouts for years.
Montana was able to accomplish the feat by allowing its existing medical marijuana businesses to grow and sell recreational pot. The state imposed an 18-month moratorium on new adult-use licenses, giving local weed businesses time to flourish before large multistate corporations get a chance to set up their own operations in the state.
The rush to bring sales online so quickly raised concerns that dispensaries wouldn't have enough weed to meet demand. But for the most part, those worries have yet to materialize. Some stores have been selling out of edibles and vape carts, but all dispensaries have managed to keep flower in stock.
Sales are expected to reach their peak as soon as summer hits, but supply shortages could still come into play. The 18-month moratorium will still be in effect this summer, so new adult-use businesses will not be able to step up and help existing businesses meet the demand for fresh flower.
“I think summer is where we’re really gonna be nervous,” said Spurlock to the Daily Montanan. “That’s really gonna tell the tale as to whether or not we have a shortage.”