By Matt Walstatter
We have a little more than a week of limited recreational marijuana sales under our belts here in Oregon and the eager anticipation of the unknown has given way to the frenetic energy of a freshly minted and highly successful new industry sector.
I think almost everyone, from government regulators to industry participants to the customers themselves, would agree that so far it has been a smashing success.
According to one (very rough) estimate, Oregon dispensaries sold approximately $11 million worth of cannabis in the first week of rec sales. That’s a pretty hefty number, especially compared to the first weeks in Colorado ($5 million) and Washington ($2 million). Keep in mind that both states have many more residents than Oregon (Washington’s population of 7.062 million is close to double that of Oregon’s 3.97 million).
The numbers for individual stores are just as impressive. One dispensary in Bend reported that they saw more than 1,000 people and rang more than $50,000 in sales on the first day alone. I know of another dispensary in the state that went from $1,000 per day to $20,000 per day overnight.
I attribute the huge launch in Oregon to a couple of factors.
First, at risk of stating the obvious, Oregonians smoke a lot of pot. Oregon has a strong cannabis culture with deep roots that stretch back at least 50 years. I know teachers and firefighters and lawyers and all sorts of other folks who like to smoke. Many of these people have been counting the days until they could buy their cannabis in a store.
We also began with many more stores than either Colorado or Washington. In Oregon, we didn’t wait until we had licensed rec stores. We began by allowing existing medical shops to sell to recreational customers. So instead of launching with the first handful of licensed rec shops, we launched recreational sales at 245 of Oregon’s 300 plus dispensaries.
At Pure Green, my dispensary in Portland, the first day of recreational sales was wildly successful. We saw about 400 customers, more than double our busiest day ever.
But just as importantly (or perhaps more so), the day went incredibly smoothly. While other shops had lines around the corner, we didn’t have anyone wait more than 20 minutes. As a result, people have returned to Pure Green. Just one week in, we already have regular recreational customers.
Most of the choices that we made in our ramp up to rec worked out. We added just the right amount of staff to handle the flow, although we will probably need to hire another employee or two this month. In the meantime, we have enough people to cover and we didn’t have to cut back anyone’s hours due to over hiring.
We also chose well in the changes that we made to our floor plan. Doubling the number of POS stations we offer (from two to four) turned out to be just the right increase.
A second door between the reception and retail areas has helped with flow and eliminated bottlenecks. We also moved concentrates and edibles over to one side, which has naturally drawn the medical patients to that side without requiring us to divide our shop into medical and recreational sections.
While it’s way too early to draw many conclusions, we have learned a few things from the first week of recreational sales.
First of all, Oregon has a lot of cannabis. Many people, particularly patients and patient advocates, were concerned that the launch of rec sales would deplete stocks so severely that patients would be unable to get their meds.
This has not been the case. I am in charge of inventory at Pure Green and while our sales have more than doubled since October 1, I have no concerns about running out of product. In fact, I still turn down more flower than I buy. This should come as a huge relief for all parties involved.
So far, we have also noticed that recreational customers like pretty much the same strains as medical patients. Some people thought that rec customers might prefer lower THC strains, which we have heard is the case in Colorado and Washington. But up to this point our top-selling recreational strains are mostly the same as our top-selling medical strains. These skew heavily toward the higher THC strains.
We are selling a greater variety of flower, which I attributed to the novelty of shopping for cannabis in a store. Most people aren’t used to having 20 or 30 strains to choose from, so they buy several at a time.
Finally, the stores that have been most successful have been in the more remote, underserved areas of the state. The shop that did $50,000 in sales was in Bend, Oregon, a town of about 80,000 people located 3.5 hours from Portland. I know of one shop owner whose more rural location 45 minutes outside of Portland has done significantly more business than his two stores in the city combined.
This makes sense when you think about the geography. There are more dispensaries within a one mile radius of Pure Green than there are in many counties in Oregon. We would expect the shops with less competition to thrive.
But, one week is not a very large sample, even if it feels like a lifetime. Nevertheless, what we have seen in this first week of recreational sales has been very encouraging.
We have a populous that is excited enough to buy cannabis at a record pace. We had a launch that went smoothly for businesses and customers. We had no regulatory issues, bad press, or serious edibles overdoses.
I think everyone in Oregon’s cannabis community would agree that if we can have more weeks like this first one, we will be well on our way to building Oregon’s newest thriving industry.
Matt Walstatter and his wife, Meghan, are the owners of Pure Green, a patient owned and operated dispensary in Portland, Oregon. They have jointly owned and operated cultivation centers since 2001. Their dispensary opened in 2013. Matt can be reached at (971) 242-8561 or [email protected]
[…] The Launch of Oregon’s Recreational Sales: A View from Pure Green […]
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