August 8, 2022

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Legal marijuana sales hit record highs in several states in mid-2020 as the coronavirus spread across the country, according to a new study. To date, sales in the four states examined in the analysis – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington – have “increased more during the COVID-19 pandemic than in the previous two years”.

The study, authored by a group of health researchers, collected pre-tax cannabis sales data from state regulators and compared those numbers over time. It found that cannabis sales were picking up even amid stay-at-home orders that had hit other sectors of the economy hard.

“The results show an overall increase in cannabis sales after stay-at-home orders placed in AK, CO, OR and WA in late March 2020,” the report said in the International Journal of Drug Policy last week . “In all four states, these increases were greater than the percentage increases seen in the previous two years.”

“To date, cannabis sales in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have grown faster during the COVID-19 pandemic than in the previous two years.”

Authors include researchers from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Drug and Alcohol Institute at the University of Washington, and health and regulatory agencies in several states. While official data releases and news articles documented the rise in marijuana sales, the new report describes itself as “the first study in the academic literature to document changes in US cannabis sales data during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

While the authors did not attempt to pinpoint the causes of the increased sales, they speculated that the increase could be related to a number of different factors: increased cannabis use by those who deal with stress, orders that stay at home are pushing consumers out the illegal market to licensed shops, possible price increases due to increasing demand and / or buying more expensive cannabis products such as concentrates and oils.

Many states allowed cannabis retailers to stay open during the pandemic – with governors and regulators in several markets making marijuana companies essential services – and some jurisdictions enacted emergency rules that allowed roadside collection, delivery services, or other looser guidelines to help facilitate social distancing.

These measures could have given people with mobility problems or young children in their care easier access, the authors found. “Changes to state cannabis regulatory policy to encourage social distancing during the pandemic may have increased the convenience or ease of purchasing cannabis for certain customers,” they said.

“Cannabis sales in all four states increased in line with state orders for stay at home.”

Government-imposed social distancing measures may also have resulted in people moving from the illegal market to the legal market, which has led to an increase in reported pharmacy sales.

“Stay-at-home orders may also have resulted in people who previously bought cannabis on the illegal market switching to legal cannabis sources,” the researchers said, “which would lead to an increase in sales that may not come with changes in the Consumption matches ”. but rather in the source of supply. “

Another explanation could be an increase in the medicinal or therapeutic use of cannabis. “Given scientific evidence to support certain medical uses of cannabis and cannabinoids, it is also possible that increased use is due to self-management of illnesses, including potential pandemic-related barriers to usual medical care,” the report said.

“Individuals may have started or increased cannabis use to cope with the stressors created by the pandemic.”

Researchers chose Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington because the legal markets for adult use in these states have been in operation for the longest and are likely to have plateaued earlier. “Even in established state cannabis markets, some year-over-year sales increase is expected as the cannabis industry continues to market to a wide audience, diversify product offerings, and increasingly capture a portion of the illegal market,” the study says. “However, sales in these four states are expected to be more stable than in states that were recently legalized and have less mature marketplaces.”

The data contains potential noise, of course, which the authors acknowledge. Price changes, for example the “increasingly fluid” distinction between medical and adult use systems, could also have had an impact on total sales. In addition, the data from the four states studied may not reflect trends in other states. The causality is also not clear: “Although the results show that the timing of sales increases coincided with the start of stay-at-home orders after the COVID-19 pandemic and continued to increase thereafter,” the report says, “is.” additional research needed to determine whether there is a causal link between the pandemic and cannabis use and sales, and whether certain populations have contributed to increased use and sales. “

The short, five-page paper draws few conclusions from the data other than that purchase and usage patterns should be further explored. In light of these increases, it is important to monitor data to understand how patterns of use may change, “and, if so, whether they affect a range of public health outcomes, including cannabis incidence.” and other substance use disorders. “

Elsewhere in the US, cannabis sales have grown similarly. In Illinois, for example, it had total sales of $ 127.8 million last month, breaking its monthly sales record for the fourth time in the past five months.

Increasing sales have also meant more revenue for the state coffers. A report released in March by supporters of Marijuana Policy estimates that legal cannabis states have made $ 7.9 billion since non-medicinal sales began. California generated more than $ 1 billion in cannabis tax revenue in 2020 alone.

Executives in other states have noticed the millions of dollars in monthly income. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) said in April that he was “tired” of hearing these sales figures and joked that Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D) always “thanked me for making Wisconsinites cross the border cross to buy marijuana ”.

Illinois officials have insisted that the tax dollars from all of these sales will be put to good use. For example, in January the state announced that it was distributing $ 31.5 million in marijuana taxpayers’ money to communities disproportionately affected by the drug war.

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Photo courtesy WeedPornDaily.

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