Marylanders have spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying cannabis since the drug was legalized for adult use this summer.
Every month since July, there’s been at least $50 million of sales of adult-use cannabis, on top of more than $30 million per month sold for medical patients – a robust market for the fledgling industry.
“I’m very encouraged by what I’m seeing,” said Darrell Carrington, a lobbyist and executive director of the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association.
So far, sales are matching what the state’s top cannabis regulator expected. Will Tilburg, acting director of the Maryland Cannabis Administration, said Maryland’s growth has followed a similar track as states with comparable size and type of market.
“The challenging thing is that every state has done this differently,” Tilburg said.
The best comparison for Maryland is Massachusetts, he said. It’s geographically small with several bordering states, has a slightly larger population, and also had a medical market before expanding to adult sales of cannabis.
Massachusetts’ first year of combined recreational and medical sales was double the medical-only market. In year two, the combined market had triple the sales of the prior medical-only market.
So far, Maryland is on track to sell $1.1 billion worth of medical and recreational cannabis combined in the first 12 months, slightly more than double the $500 million in medical cannabis that was sold last year, Tilburg said.
When state lawmakers set up the regulations for the adult-use market this spring, analysts estimated about $400 million in sales for the first 12 months. A later report put the estimate at $600 million.
The Maryland Cannabis Administration recently launched a dashboard outlining sales trends in both segments of the market. Some highlights include:
- The most popular type of cannabis sold is flower, followed by concentrated liquids for vaping.
- Dispensaries are making more than 1.2 million transactions each month; about two-thirds are adult-use customers and the other one-third are medical patients and caregivers.
- Over the course of the year, the median price per gram is $9.21. The price was lower before adult-use sales started July 1.
- Medical cannabis sales dropped sharply from June to July, when adult-use sales began. Medical sales have slightly dropped since then.
As Marylanders spend hundreds of millions on adult-use cannabis, they’re also paying taxes to the state government. The 9% cannabis sales tax generated $12.1 million for the state in the first three months of sales, according to a recent report from the state comptroller.
Tilburg said the cannabis market will continue to grow and change as more business licenses are issued, different products are offered, people become more comfortable with using cannabis and as medical patients decide whether to stay in the medical market or let their certifications expire and move to the general adult market.
The number of medical patients and amount of medical sales has been declining since July.
The medical market has advantages for patients: Sales are not taxed, they have access to more potent products and dispensaries must offer special hours or access for medical customers.
But medical sales are tracked and patients require periodic recertification by a doctor. Some may prefer to let their medical cards lapse if they can buy their preferred products as an adult-use consumer.
“It’s still early. We’re not even six months in. The market will continue to evolve,” Tilburg said.
Even Colorado, with the most firmly established cannabis market, is still seeing changes, he said.
“The constant will be change in the months and years ahead,” he said. “So far, it has largely matched what we had anticipated based on our looking at other states.”
Carrington, from the industry association, said the “robust” sales so far bode well for the industry.
The state is in the process of awarding a second round of cannabis business licenses, after the adult-use market launched this summer with businesses that were previously serving the medical cannabis market.
More than 1,700 businesses applied for 179 available licenses. After the applicants are vetted, the Maryland Cannabis Administration plans to award licenses through a lottery, potentially as soon as February.
Carrington said the strong sales show there is enough consumer demand for the new businesses to be successful.
“This is uncharted territory. We’d never done adult-use before,” he said. “It’s really encouraging how strong the numbers are, because that bodes well for the new round of licensing.”