Adult-use cannabis sales plunge after briefly hitting new heights on coronavirus concerns

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Adult-use marijuana sales plunged over the weekend, only a few days after skyrocketing to new heights as consumers prepared for fallout from coronavirus.

The response might mark a natural decline after consumers stocked up before sheltering in place or it could be the result of economic pressures from the pandemic, which has resulted in the closure of restaurants, gyms, ski resorts and scores of other businesses as well as the loss of thousands of jobs.

On March 2, recreational marijuana sales in California, Colorado and Washington state were all up over the same time period in 2019, from a modest 8% increase in Colorado to a whopping 88% in California.These increases followed previous seasonal trends for March, which often see a year-over-year uptick in sales.

By March 9, sales in the three states had surged, with year-over-year sales increases of 46% in Colorado, 100% in Washington state and an eye-popping 159% in California.

But by March 21, sales had slowed in California to represent a 23% year-over-year increase – and in Colorado and Washington state, sales were down from the previous year.

Washington state’s sales were down 2% while Colorado saw a 19% decrease over the same time period in 2019.

“We’re on a glide path back to normal,” said Logan Bowers, co-owner of Hashtag Cannabis, which has two retail stores in the Seattle area.

After Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a statewide closure of bars and restaurants on March 16, Bowers said in the next hour his sales were six times higher than typical.

“We definitely saw some panic buying last week,” he said. “Folks were stocking up.”

Bowers said sales started to stabilize and return to a more ordinary level this past weekend.

With many consumers having stockpiled in advance, the decline could simply be a rebalancing of demand.

Falling sales could also be a result of pandemic-induced economic worries.

In Colorado alone, the unemployment rate is expected to increase from a record-low 2.5% in December 2019 to as much as 15% by the end of March.

The increase in unemployment is a result of nonessential-business closures, including the ski areas that help fuel Colorado’s economy during winter months.


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