Marijuana’s rise to its status as the newest powerhouse in American retail sales has been truly meteoric in every way except one—through an extended period of double-digit growth, we’re still waiting for a sign of the (so we thought) inevitable flame-out.
Things will slow eventually—they have to, experts and economists say—but not right now. Through the first 11 months of 2016, Colorado’s marijuana shops tallied $1.2 billion in sales, an increase of 33 percent from 2015, according to the most-recent figures crunched by the Cannabist.
Recreational and medical consumers in the state rang up $106 million in sales in November, a 32 percent increase from November sales the year before.
And this in after a quiet month: despite whatever boost marijuana shops received around Thanksgiving, by repute now one of the busiest times for dispensaries, total sales in November were the lowest since May, when marijuana retail outlets sold only $98.6 million worth of legal weed.
Perhaps owing to the summertime vacation crowd, or maybe because people just buy more weed when the weather is nicer and the days are longer, the best months were July, August, and September, with three consecutive months of record-breaking sales. Sales totaled roughly $129 million in September, according to data from the Colorado Department of Revenue.
As for revenue: through the end of November, Colorado gleaned $180 million in taxes directly from the sale of marijuana, with most of that earmarked for schools, drug treatment programs and other health efforts, the Cannabist reported.
Remember, this is all without sales in December, which is a busy month. In 2015, Colorado consumers bought a little more than $100 million worth of cannabis in the last month of the year; this year, if trends continue, it could be closer to $125 million.
Now, the main question is: When will it all end? Sooner, or later? How much later?
At some point, growth will slow and sales will settle down to typical cycles seen in other industries, with slowdowns and bust cycles to temper the boom, so say the experts. Then again, this is a completely black-market economy going legitimate, with mushrooming mainstream acceptance of marijuana and fast-growing, widespread experimentation going on at the same time. More people than ever are realizing marijuana is OK—and then trying it for themselves.
This has been going on now for several years. This didn’t happen with alcohol prohibition. People were well aware what booze was and if it fit into their lives or not, and more than happy to drink more than ever with alcohol illegal. Now, whether it’s a newfound respect for law-and-order or reluctance to experiment with a new thing, marijuana use is steadily increasing with legalization. This is a long way of saying that any models of prior behavior that may be used to project what’s to come next are worthless.
With cannabis, the ceiling has yet to be found—and as more people shake off tired old mores inspired by drug-war nonsense, it may raise for a while yet.
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