Cannabis retailers in Maine are seeing a spike in sales of vape cartridges, likely a result of the ban on sales of vaping products in neighboring Massachusetts.
The ban appears to have spurred Massachusetts cannabis consumers to trek north to purchase vape merchandise across the border, although it is illegal for people to take marijuana products across state lines.
The cross-border traffic has given Maine cannabis retailers at least a temporary boost in sales.
Wellness Connection of Maine CEO Patricia Rosi said her retail stores in Portland and elsewhere in the state have seen nearly triple the number of customers from Massachusetts since Gov. Charlie Baker in late September issued a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products.
Boston is a little less than a two-hour drive to Portland, Maine. And about two-thirds of the customers who purchased vaping products at Rosi’s stores were from Massachusetts.
Moreover, they’re buying more vaping products than Wellness Connection’s typical Maine customers.
“They’re buying more because pricing in Maine is lower than in Massachusetts,” Rosi said of Massachusetts consumers.
In addition to Portland, there are Wellness Connection stores in Bath, Brewer and Gardiner, which are all 2½ to nearly four hours from the Massachusetts border.
“Some are stocking up and buying multiple products,” Rosi said of Massachusetts customers. “They come, they have some lunch – a lobster roll – buy some vape products and head back down.”
Despite the increase in customer traffic, Rosi said the inventory at her four stores has not been depleted.
“We’re always well-stocked,” she said. “This is not causing us a problem. We can definitely meet the demand.”
Portland sees biggest gains
The Wellness Connection in Portland, which is closest to the Massachusetts border, has seen the biggest increase in sales of vape products, while sales at the other three stores also have increased slightly.
While other states have reported a decline in the sales of vape products since the vaping health crisis and an increase in the sales of edibles, Rosi said she hasn’t seen a significant decline in vape sales to her Maine customers or an increase in edibles sales.
“There’s more substitution going to pre-roll than with edibles, but it’s not the magnitude I would have expected,” Rosi said.
“People that prefer vaping would probably migrate more toward smoking than edibles. That would not be a natural switch because it takes a half-hour to 45 minutes to make it happen.”
After seeing vape cartridge sales increase 20.1% from July to August, Jar Co. owner Joel Pepin said cart sales in September plummeted 17% at his two Maine stores from August, when the first vaping death was reported.
However, sales at JAR, which has medical marijuana storefronts in Newry and Windham, Maine, experienced a 6% increase in sales of vape cartridges this month after the ban in Massachusetts was implemented.
“We really tried to initiate a proactive vaping campaign in the store and on social media talking about what’s different in our cartridges,” Pepin said.
Tobacco vape sales up in New Hampshire
The recent jump in sales hasn’t been confined to cannabis vaporizers.
In New Hampshire, Leo Vercollone said sales of tobacco vaping products at his convenience stores have tripled since the Massachusetts ban was issued.
Vercollone was surprised, considering that when Massachusetts raised the age for tobacco use from 18 to 21 on Jan. 1, he saw only a marginal increase in sales.
“I think there are a lot of tobacco smokers that don’t want to go back to smoking cigarettes, which his 100% understandable,” he said of the increase in sales after the ban.
But he’s also heard people say that because they can’t get their Juul or e-cigarette vape pens, they’re going back to combustible cigarettes.
“It’s a real shame for people who can’t drive to New Hampshire or Maine,” he said.
Margaret Jackson can be reached at email@example.com
For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the vaping crisis, click here.