2020 has been an economic disaster for most businesses, state governments, and individuals, but it has been a banner year for the legal weed industry.
The pandemic forced many businesses to shut their doors for months on end. Legal pot retailers have stayed in business, though, and the demand for legal pot spiked during the lockdown. Oregon is a shining example of this trend, having broken pot sales records every single month from March to May. And as of last month, the Beaver State has broken another historic sales record – topping the $1 billion mark for the first time since adult-use sales began in 2015.
From January 1 to November 25, the state's legal adult-use and medical marijuana retailers sold $1.014 billion worth of weed, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). This marks an impressive 40 percent increase over the $726 million sold during the same period in 2019. This year's eleven-month total has already surpassed 2019's previous record of $795 million in total sales, and there's still one month to go in 2020.
“This profound moment shows that Oregon’s legal market is now the sustaining and dominant choice for Oregon consumers and an impressive contributor to Oregon’s economy,” said OLCC executive director Steve Marks to the Portland Business Journal. “Now we need to continue to adjust our regulatory oversight so that it supports the cannabis industry’s entrepreneurial spirit, while at the same time developing strong consumer product safety standards that reinforce the quality found in Oregon’s cannabis marketplace.”
The massive spike in sales is helping the state recover from the financial devastation of the pandemic. Adult-use sales, which have accounted for 90 percent of the state's total legal pot revenue, are taxed at 17 percent, with an additional 3 percent tax in most localities. For the first quarter of the 2021 fiscal year (which started on July 1st of 2020), the state raked in $46.9 million in legal weed taxes, a 45 percent boost over the same quarter the previous year.
Other states have also seen a boom in weed sales during the pandemic, but not as big as Oregon. Illinois' new adult-use market, which only began in January, has also been breaking sales records every month, leading regulators to declare the legal pot industry as “recession-proof” and “pandemic-proof.” Oklahoma's powerful medical marijuana industry has also been growing this year, with over $73 million in sales reported this April. And as of October, legal pot sales were up by 29 percent in Washington state.
But even as strong as Oregon's sales have been, the state has a long way to go to catch up to Colorado. Last year, the Centennial State sold an amazing $1.75 billion worth of legal pot, and that figure is likely to be much higher this year, considering that legal weed retailers moved $1.1 billion worth of product between March and August alone.