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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Three years in, legal marijuana sales soaring in Washington state

As Washington on Sunday marks the third year of legal recreational marijuana, monthly sales have grown from about $3 million to more than $57 million in November.

Nov. 25 – the day before Thanksgiving – was a record day at the state’s 188 recreational pot stores.

That day, some $3.5 million worth of marijuana and marijuana-infused products were sold, according to the state Liquor and Cannabis Board, which tracks sales and tax collections. That’s almost $500,000 more than any previous day’s sales, and about $1 million higher than the daily sales average for the last three months.

Whether that means more people were relaxed for a holiday dinner with family or more out-of-state guests were testing out the novelty of buying legal marijuana isn’t clear.

But pre-holiday sales spikes could be a trend, if that can be established with such a limited span of data. Thanksgiving Eve in 2014 was the first day sales hit $1 million, and it remained the top day for sales until New Year’s Eve.

In Spokane, shop owners said they had long lines on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which the marijuana industry has dubbed “Green Friday.”

Despite the market’s robust growth in the last three years, and the one-day record, pot retailers in Spokane County saw a slowdown in month-over-month sales in November.

Spokane’s fifteen shops sold roughly $500,000 less worth of legal marijuana last month compared to October, an 11 percent decline in an industry now flush with outdoor-grown marijuana.

“It’s unfortunate, but I try to stay positive,” said Sam Calvert, owner of Green Star Cannabis near downtown Spokane. “This is the first time I’ve ever had my sales drop.”

Calvert and others blamed the sales decline on many different factors, none of which were the catastrophic windstorm that shuttered businesses of all types around the county for several days in mid-November.

“We were pretty busy the day of the windstorm,” said Justin Peterson, owner of the two Cinder stores in Spokane Valley and on Division Street.

Brian Smith, spokesman for the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board, said his agency had not yet determined an exact reason for declining monthly sales numbers. But he pointed to Thanksgiving and Veterans Day holidays, when shops were closed, as well as competition from outside sources.

“Oregon starting selling marijuana tax-free in October,” Smith said. “Some of our biggest sales had come from stores in Vancouver.”

In November 2014, eight shops were open in Spokane County compared to 15 last month. Sales increased 10 percent between October and November 2014.

Calvert predicted the November slump would continue until Washington ensured no black market marijuana is making its way to the streets. Combined with legally grown outdoor pot, the illegally grown weed slashed costs, he said.

“It forced prices really, really low,” Calvert said. “Customers are going to go for the cheapest products in Spokane.”

“I would quadruple the enforcement dollars, and allocate more dollars to education, to something that adds value to the communities,” Calvert said.

According to the Liquor and Cannabis Board, 24 tons of marijuana was harvested last month in the state. That followed a harvest of 17.5 tons in October.

Statewide, shops sold about 7 tons of marijuana in October and November, according to the Liquor and Cannabis Board.

November also saw the Liquor and Cannabis Board beginning to catalog applications to sell medical marijuana under state supervision. A total of 90 businesses applied for medical marijuana approval, including 11 of Spokane’s licensed recreational stores.

Greenlight, on Trent Avenue, once again led all Spokane County retailers with sales of $590,378 last month, which were down 8 percent from the month prior. D & L Enterprises, a large-scale grower in Cheney, reported the most sales of any Spokane County producer, with $60,214 in November revenue. Grow Op Farms, a Spokane Valley marijuana processor, posted the largest revenue total of any of its competitors, with $923,968 in November sales.