Anchorage recreational marijuana sales a bullish indicator of Alaska’s growing market

Recreational marijuana sales in Alaska’s largest city continued to grow in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the resiliency of the state’s adult-use industry even in challenging conditions.

Anchorage posted a record $9 million in recreational sales in September, a 25% increase over the same month last year.

With 40% of the state’s population and retail licenses, the city is the best indicator of the overall growth the Alaska market is experiencing.

Statewide sales figures were unavailable, but the total number of ounces sold in Alaska in September grew 11% year-over-year and were up 42% over September 2018.

Rules implemented by Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board in April to allow drive-thru sales and curbside pickup during the coronavirus pandemic likely helped sales.

The board renewed those rules in November. They are now set to expire in March but could be extended again to help ensure public safety.

The state’s marijuana industry also has supporters in high places.

At-large Alaska Congressman Don Young, a states’-rights advocate and co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, was one of five Republicans to vote for the MORE Act, a bill that would legalize marijuana in the United States.

(How each legislator voted is available here.)

“This bill isn’t perfect, but it takes important steps to safeguard our personal liberties and freedom,” Young tweeted after the vote last week.

With a $50-per-ounce sales tax on flower in Alaska, some of the state’s politicians likely are looking to protect marijuana tax revenues at a time the pandemic has hit state budgets around the nation.

Money brought in from cannabis sales quickly is overtaking tax dollars collected for alcohol in Alaska.

According to Alaska’s Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office, liquor, wine, beer and cider sales statewide garnered $3.4 million for the state’s coffers in September and marijuana sales brought in $2.2 million that month.

The growth is even more impressive considering the state’s amendment to the tax code that reduces the marijuana tax to $25 an ounce on lower-grade flower that is immature, abnormally shaped or has observable seeds.

In September, Alaska cannabis businesses sold more than 12,000 ounces of such flower, which is mostly used for extraction.

Overall, flower accounted for 30,000 ounces of total sales in September across Alaska, while the remainder of the plant, or trim, accounted for about the same.

The state started taxing marijuana clones at a $1 a plant in 2019.

Since then, 17,230 plants have been sold with an average of about 800 sold a month.

Clone sales from January through September declined about 40% from the same period last year, but the cause of the decline is unclear.

Andrew Long can be reached at