By Becky Olson
Washington State’s recreational cannabis industry started off slow but ended the first full year of sales with a bang.
Retail cannabis stores recorded $180 million in revenue from early July of last year through this June, fueled by a significant sales spike over the past few months, according to data from the state Liquor Control Board.
About 60% of the revenue total was generated in the last four months alone as the industry hit its stride, while monthly sales doubled from January to April.
Retail sales so far in 2015 are already around $140 million, well on their way to meeting and possibly surpassing the $200 million-$300 million estimate for the year in the Marijuana Business Factbook.
Sales growth in Washington has been explosive and highly variable, with month-to-month increases ranging from 9.5% to 140%.
In the first full month of legal sales – August 2014 – retail stores reported $5 million in revenues, which was more than double the amount from July (sales began on July 8). While that ranks as the biggest monthly increase on a percentage basis over the past year, sales have seen their largest increases dollar-wise over the past two quarters.
Despite the fluctuations, the median monthly growth rate – a more conservative measure than the average in instances where there are extreme outliers – is still a healthy 24%.
Washington’s monthly retail sales now top $30 million, which is not too far behind Colorado, where recreational revenues are averaging about $40 million per month.
As 2014 came to a close, the disparity between the two states’ monthly rec sales was large – with Colorado stores raking in roughly triple the amount of money as their Washington counterparts on a monthly basis. Washington is now quickly catching up, which has dispelled some initial concerns about the viability of the recreational market there.
The growth rates in Washington are not sustainable into perpetuity, so expect to see the acceleration taper off for the remainder of 2015, though the market as a whole will likely still continue to grow.
Washington’s slow start and then tremendous growth is a positive sign for the next fledgling recreational markets – Oregon and Alaska – as well as other states that embrace a recreational marijuana marketplace.
Becky Olson can be reached at email@example.com