Portland Business Journal – Pete Danko

Bolstered by the pandemic, Oregon cannabis has cracked $1 billion in sales this year, a first for the industry and a remarkable leap from 2019 levels.

Combined adult-use and medical sales broke through the $1 billion mark last Wednesday, according to data provided by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Cannabis sales have been growing steadily since Oregon’s adult-use market began taking shape five years ago, and reached a record $795 million in 2019.

But riding a surge that began when the pandemic hit in March, the state blew past that figure in September this year.

As of the end of November, sales were at preliminary total of $1.014 billion. That’s a 40% gain over the $726 million sold in 2019 through November.

Industry players and economists attribute the spike to a number of factors, including federal stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits, as well as people working from home, having extra free time and seeking relief from all that 2020 has been dishing up.

Of course, none of that would have been possible if the industry hadn’t been allowed to operate when many businesses were shut down. Oregon regulators also moved quickly to help businesses, allowing retailers to institute popular “curb-side pickup,” for instance.

“This profound moment shows that Oregon’s legal market is now the sustaining and dominant choice for Oregon consumers and an impressive contributor to Oregon’s economy,” Steve Marks, the OLCC’s executive director, said via email.

“Now we need to continue to adjust our regulatory oversight so that it supports the cannabis industry’s entrepreneurial spirit, while at the same time developing strong consumer product safety standards that reinforce the quality found in Oregon’s cannabis marketplace.”

Sales have increased in other states with legal markets, but generally not as much as in Oregon; Washington was up 29% through October and Colorado up 24%, according to industry analyst Headset.

Higher sales have translated to booming revenue for the state. Oregon taxes adult-use sales, which comprise about 90% of total sales, at a 17% rate, and most localities add a 3% tax.