After a slow start, the Massachusetts marijuana industry is starting to pick up momentum.
Recreational cannabis stores in the state have now sold more than $1.5 billion of pot products since their debut in November 2018, according to new data released by the Cannabis Control Commission, passing the milestone just before the traditional “4/20″ stoner holiday observed on April 20.
The sector also set an all-time single-day sales record on April 17, the Saturday before 4/20, when the roughly 140 pot shops in Massachusetts sold more than $5.04 million worth of cannabis buds, edibles, vapes, and other products. That surpassed the previous high-water mark of nearly $4.77 million set on April 2, the Friday before Easter.
Because 4/20 fell on a Tuesday this year, sales on April 20 itself were slightly muted, with marijuana retailers booking around $4.21 million in revenue for the day. Still, consumers in Massachusetts bought far more cannabis on the date than usual — a full 52 percent more, as cannabis shops in March averaged only $2.76 million in sales on Tuesdays.
Overall, recreational marijuana consumers snapped up a total of $30 million in pot products during the week before 4/20 and on the day itself, which is typically the industry’s strongest sales period of the year.
In 2020, Governor Charlie Baker shuttered the recreational sector for nearly two months at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing cannabis companies to miss out on their annual April sales bump.
“It couldn’t be any worse than last year, being shut down,” said David Torrisi, who leads the Commonwealth Dispensary Association. This year, he added, “I feel a huge sense of optimism amongst cannabis operators and expect that it will carry over well into the summer months.”
Industry experts said they expect Massachusetts marijuana stores will easily surpass $1 billion in sales in 2021. So far this year, they’ve sold around $359 million of products, and new retailers are opening nearly every week, as the cannabis commission substantially increases its pace of licensing and municipalities grow less reluctant to host cannabis facilities.
The market is still far from mature, though, with consumers complaining that prices remain stubbornly high and that selection is often meager. And while the stress and boredom of the pandemic have driven some to increase their cannabis consumption, the lingering threat posed by COVID has also kept a partial lid on sales, as consumers continue to limit their shopping and errand-running.
“Not everyone is back into stores yet, and that’s a problem,” said David O’Brien of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association. “It’s going to be really exciting to see what a normal year looks like for the industry when we live it. We’ve always said the industry shouldn’t be 20 companies — it’s tens and ultimately hundreds of stores, and that will be good for the consumer.”