Oregon is rolling in the green.
The first week of legal marijuana sales brought in roughly $11 million in sales, according to numbers released by the state in October. Starting Oct. 1, select medical marijuana dispensaries across Oregon were allowed to sell the drug for recreational consumption.
The state’s voters legalized cannabis in 2014, along with Alaska and Washington, D.C. Washington State and Colorado legalized in 2012. The first retail marijuana stores opened Jan. 1 2014 across Colorado, and sales have since attracted millions of dollars there and in Washington State.
All indications suggest opening day in Oregon was an especially big success. The new retail market was so popular it attracted cannabis users from neighboring California – where the drug is cheap and plentiful.
Industry will generate substantially more tax revenue than expected
The booming business in Oregon suggests the new industry may ultimately generate much more money than officials initially expected. That would mark yet another in a long string of wins for legalization advocates.
“It’s exciting,” said Peter, a customer standing in line at Portland’s Nectar dispensary on opening day. “It’s just really weird. It feels like it’s not even really happening, to be honest. It’s really bizarre.”
At Nectar, as elsewhere throughout the city, staffers were busy restocking their shelves as marijuana moved quickly out the door.
“We’re seeing about 500 people a day,” said Nectar owner Jeff Johnson.
Business is booming
Johnson, like other shop owners, said that’s a sign things are working exactly as intended. Oregon is now the third state with operating retail marijuana shops, as stores won’t open in Alaska until next year; it’s unclear when the first stores will open in the District of Columbia.
As on opening day in Colorado and Washington, the first day of legal sales in Oregon drew a crowd mostly interested in the novelty of the day. Emily Szczech, a customer at Nectar, said she came out because she was curious how the first day would go.
“We just wanted to come in and check it out,” Szczech said. “We’ve never been able to go into one of the stores to see what it’s like.”
Outpacing Colorado and Washington
The Oregon Retail Cannabis Association said there were $3.5 million in sales on Oct. 1 alone. Business was so good officials say the industry is outpacing those in Washington and even Colorado. Washington took roughly a month to earn its first $2 million, while Colorado took in $5 million in its first week.
Officials initially predicted legal marijuana would generate $9 million in sales tax revenue in the first year. The Oregon Retail Cannabis Association now says the real number could be three or four times as high.
The flush of new business could prove a boost not only to reformers but also to medical marijuana providers. Some of the dispensaries now swimming in cash were struggling to stay afloat before recreational cannabis sales arrived.
“There for a while, towards the end, we were thinking we might have to close the doors because we weren’t getting any kind of steady business,” said Rachel Clerk, an employee at Fresh Buds in Portland. Since Oct. 1, Clerk said, the shop is in the black and averaging 10 times as many customers as before.
“It’s just person after person after person,” she said.