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Marijuana Sales Increased In Multiple States During COVID, Study Finds

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Legal marijuana sales in multiple states reached record highs in mid-2020 as coronavirus spread across the nation, according 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, gathered pre-tax cannabis sales data from state regulatory agencies and compared those numbers over time. It found that even amid stay-at-home orders that dealt hard hits to other economic sectors, cannabis sales picked up speed.

“Findings show a general increase in cannabis sales following stay-at-home orders issued in AK, CO, OR, and WA in late March 2020,” the report, published last week in the International Journal of Drug Policy, says. “In all four states, those increases were greater than the percent increases observed in the preceding two years.”

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

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

While the authors didn’t attempt to determine the causes behind the increased sales, they speculated the boost might be related to a number of different factors: increased cannabis use among individuals coping with stress, stay-at-home orders pushing consumers from the illicit market to licensed stores, possible price increases due to rising demand and/or purchasing of more expensive cannabis products, such as concentrates and oils.

Many states allowed cannabis retailers to remain open during the pandemic—with governors and regulators in several markets declaring marijuana businesses to be essential services—and some jurisdictions issued emergency rules allowing curbside pickup, delivery services or other more relaxed policies in order to facilitate social distancing.

Those measures could have allowed easier access for people with mobility issues or small children in their care, the authors noted. “State cannabis regulatory policy changes to promote social distancing during the pandemic may have increased the convenience or ease of purchasing cannabis for certain customers,” they said.

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

Government-imposed social distancing measures may have also encouraged people to switch from the illegal market to the legal one, leading to a boost in reported sales at dispensaries.

“Stay-at-home orders may also have resulted in individuals who previously purchased cannabis on the illicit market moving to legal sources of cannabis,” the researchers said, “which would result in an increase in sales that may not correspond to changes in use but rather in the source of purchase.”

Another explanation could be a rise in medical or therapeutic use of cannabis. “Given scientific evidence supporting specific medicinal uses of cannabis and cannabinoids, it is also possible that increased consumption may be due to self-treatment of medical conditions, including due to potential pandemic-related barriers to usual sources of medical care,” the report says.

“Individuals may have initiated or increased cannabis use to cope with stressors brought on by the pandemic.”

Researchers chose Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington because legal adult-use markets in those states have been operating the longest and are thought to be more likely to have plateaued. “Some increase in year-over-year sales is expected even in established state-based cannabis markets because the cannabis industry continues to market to broad audiences, to diversify product offerings, and increasingly, to capture some of the illicit market,” the study says. “However, sales are expected to be more stable in these four states than in states that legalized more recently and have less mature marketplaces.”

There is, of course, potential noise in the data, which the authors acknowledge. Price changes, the “increasingly fluid” distinction between medical and adult use systems, for example, might also have affected total sales. Moreover, data from the four states studied may not represent trends in other states. Causality also isn’t clear: “While results demonstrate the timing of sales increases coincided with the onset of stay-at-home orders following the COVID-19 pandemic and continued to increase thereafter,” the report says, “additional research is needed to determine whether a causal association between the pandemic and cannabis use and sales exists and whether specific populations contributed to increased use and sales.”

The short, five-page paper draws few conclusions from the data other than that purchasing and use patterns deserve further study. “In light of these increases, data monitoring is warranted to understand how patterns of use may be changing,” it says, “and, if so, whether they affect a range of public health outcomes including the incidence of cannabis and other substance use disorders.”

Elsewhere in the U.S., cannabis sales have similarly grown. In Illinois, for instance, saw $127.8 million in total sales last month, breaking its monthly sales record for the fourth time in the past five months.

Rising sales have also meant more revenue for state coffers. A report from advocates at Marijuana Policy Published in March estimated that all told, legal cannabis states had brought in $7.9 billion since nonmedical sales began. California made more than $1 billion in cannabis tax revenue in 2020 alone.

Leaders in other states have remarked on the millions in monthly revenue. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said in April he’s getting “tired” of hearing about these sales figures, joking that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) always “thanks me for having Wisconsinites cross the border to buy marijuana.”

Illinois officials have emphasized that the tax dollars from all of these sales are being put to good use. For example, the state announced in January that it is distributing $31.5 million in grants funded by marijuana tax dollars to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

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Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

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Amazon Reaffirms Support For Marijuana Legalization And Says Former Workers Punished Over Cannabis Are Eligible For Employment

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Amazon is reaffirming its support for federal marijuana legalization, and it disclosed on Tuesday that its earlier decision to end drug testing for cannabis will also be retroactive, meaning former workers and applicants who were punished for testing positive for THC will have their employment eligibility restored.

The company’s move to end marijuana drug testing for many positions in June was widely celebrated by reform advocates and industry stakeholders. But at the time, Amazon only talked about ending the policy going forward.

In a new blog post, Beth Galetti, Amazon’s senior vice president of human resources, clarified that it has also “reinstated the employment eligibility for former employees and applicants who were previously terminated or deferred during random or pre-employment marijuana screenings.”

The reason for the move away from marijuana testing is multifaceted, Amazon said. The growing state-level legalization movement has made it “difficult to implement an equitable, consistent, and national pre-employment marijuana testing program,” data shows that drug testing “disproportionately impacts people of color and acts as a barrier to employment” and ending the requirement will widen the company’s applicant pool.

That said, unlike in its June announcement, Amazon’s new update places an emphasis on ending “pre-employment” drug testing for cannabis. It used broader language before, announcing that it will “no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program.”

Amazon also reiterated that it would like to see Congress pass legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition. It cited the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) as examples of bills that it supports.

For the latter legislation—which is being sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)—Amazon participated in a public comment period and submitted feedback that it shared with lawmakers in the new blog post.

“We believe the time has come for reform of the nation’s cannabis policy and we are committed to helping lead the effort,” the company said in a letter to the senators. “As your bill would achieve similar objectives, we are pleased to endorse the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act as currently drafted.”

Amazon said it specifically supports key provisions to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, expunge prior cannabis convictions and use some marijuana tax revenue for community reinvestment.

Curiously, the letter also says “we have refrained from commenting on areas where we do not have a particular view, including regulation, permitting, taxation, and interstate commerce.”

It’s that last point that raises some eyebrows, as it stands to reason that any policy on interstate cannabis commerce would be of interest to a business that delivers products across the U.S. and presumably has the infrastructure to expand its delivery services into the marijuana industry when prohibition ends.

“We are proud to largely end pre-employment testing of marijuana as a condition of employment. And we are enthused by the notable momentum in the country toward recognizing that today’s status quo is unfair and untenable,” Amazon concluded. “We are eager to work with you to secure passage of this legislation.”

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Arizona Marijuana Tax Revenue Exceeds $20 Million In August, State Reports

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Arizona collected more than $20 million in medical and adult-use marijuana tax revenue in August, data released by the state this week shows.

Medical cannabis taxes were slightly higher at $6,388,816 last month, compared to $4,542,166 collected from the recreational market, according to the Department of Revenue. The state also took in an additional $9,515,016 from the marijuana excise tax.

However, these figures are preliminary and may change, as some businesses could need additional time to send in data.

July’s cannabis tax revenue was slightly higher compared to August, with the state taking in about $400,000 more in the prior month.

While medical cannabis taxes are still outpacing those from the adult-use market, that gap has been generally been narrowing in the months since recreational sales first launched in January. That’s a trend that’s been observed across numerous states after adult-use marijuana is legalized.

However, Arizona’s medical marijuana market is well-established, and some industry experts don’t necessarily expect recreational sales to overtake the medical program for some time.

Overall cannabis tax revenue from January through August totaled $115,701,426, according to the data the Department of Revenue is reporting so far.

Other states are also seeing a windfall in marijuana tax dollars as more markets mature and sales continue to increase.

For example, Maine recreational marijuana sales broke another record in August, exceeding $10 million for the first time since the adult-use market launched in October 2020.

Adult-use cannabis sales in Illinois exceeded $120 million in August, state officials recently reported. It’s the second highest sales record since the state’s recreational market launched last year and the sixth month in a row that sales surpassed $100 million.

Massachusetts marijuana sales have topped $2 billion since the state’s adult-use market launched in late 2018, the Cannabis Control Commission reported last week.

California collected about $817 million in adult-use marijuana tax revenue during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, state officials estimated last month. That’s 55 percent more cannabis earnings for state coffers than was generated in the prior fiscal year.

A recent scientific analysis of sales data in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State found that marijuana purchases “have increased more during the COVID-19 pandemic than in the previous two years.”

In July alone, at least three states saw record-breaking sales for recreational cannabis. The same goes for Missouri’s medical marijuana program.

Michigan marijuana sales broke another record in July with more than $171 million in cannabis transactions, according to data from the state’s regulatory body. There were $128 million in adult-use sales and $43 million in medical cannabis purchases.

Throughout the pandemic, many states allowed cannabis retailers to remain open—with governors and regulators in several markets declaring marijuana businesses to be essential services—and some jurisdictions issued emergency rules allowing curbside pickup, delivery services or other more relaxed policies in order to facilitate social distancing.

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Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Maine Marijuana Sales Broke Another Record In August, Exceeding $10 Million For First Time

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Maine recreational marijuana sales broke another record in August, exceeding $10 million for the first time since the adult-use market launched in October 2020.

The state’s Office of Marijuana Policy reported that the state’s 53 adult-use cannabis shops brought in about $10.2 million in marijuana purchases last month. And that translates into about $1 million in tax revenue for the state, which has a population of just 1.3 million.

By comparison, Maine cannabis sales for recreational consumers amounted to just $1.1 million during the first month of retail sales less than a year ago. That record has been broken each subsequent month.

While August proved to be a record-breaking month for marijuana purchases—with 133,969 sales transactions—it’s only slightly higher compared to July, when the state saw about $9.4 million in adult-use purchases. Those figures don’e include medical cannabis sales, which are tracked separately.

Via Maine Office of Marijuana Policy.

According to the Portland Press Herald, regulators have credited summer tourism for the sales spike.

But in general, states across the U.S. have seen similar trends over recent years. And marijuana sales records have been consistently broken over the past year despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Adult-use cannabis sales in Illinois exceeded $120 million in August, state officials recently reported. It’s the second highest sales record since the state’s recreational market launched last year and the sixth month in a row that sales surpassed $100 million.

Arizona brought in about $21 million in medical and adult-use marijuana tax revenue in July, state officials recently reported on a new webpage that enables people to more easily track how the industry is evolving.

California collected about $817 million in adult-use marijuana tax revenue during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, state officials estimated last month. That’s 55 percent more cannabis earnings for state coffers than was generated in the prior fiscal year.

A recent scientific analysis of sales data in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State found that marijuana purchases “have increased more during the COVID-19 pandemic than in the previous two years.”

In July alone, at least three states saw record-breaking sales for recreational cannabis. The same goes for Missouri’s medical marijuana program.

Michigan marijuana sales broke another record in July with more than $171 million in cannabis transactions, according to data from the state’s regulatory body. There were $128 million in adult-use sales and $43 million in medical cannabis purchases.

Throughout the pandemic, many states allowed cannabis retailers to remain open—with governors and regulators in several markets declaring marijuana businesses to be essential services—and some jurisdictions issued emergency rules allowing curbside pickup, delivery services or other more relaxed policies in order to facilitate social distancing.

Marijuana Legalization Doesn’t Lead To Increased Youth Use, American Medical Association Study Finds

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