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The states of strains

The dispensary marketplace is a lively bazaar, with established brands and entrepreneurs every day coming up with new products — everything from chewing gums to nasal sprays to CBD-packed concentrates and massage lotions.

But the wide range of commercial innovations remain dwarfed, in terms of sales dollars and volume, by the thing that got the cannabis train chugging along these commercial tracks: flower.

During the first quarter of 2017 in Colorado and Oregon, and during January and February in Washington, flower grabbed 52 percent of the market on $313.9 million in sales. Concentrates’ market share was less than half of flower’s, at 24 percent, and edibles captured 13 percent.

The flower category may appear fairly monolithic — sales are represented largely by the buds sold in jars and pre-rolled joints — but activity within the behemoth is anything but staid. Most flower is sold as strains, like Purple Haze and White Widow. And consumers in different states largely go their own way when it comes to strain preferences.

Among Colorado, Washington and Oregon, only two strains — Blue Dream and Gorilla Glue— appear in the top 10 list of all three states, according to the market research firm BDS Analytics, which tracks more than 12,000 cannabis strains in its GreenEdge™ database.

Golden Goat grabbed the No. 2 spot in Colorado during Q1 2017, and nearly beat Blue Dream for one month. Meanwhile, it doesn’t crack the top 15 lists in Washington and Oregon.


Some strains that are enormously popular in one state — like Golden Goat in Colorado (the No. 2 strain during the first quarter, with $3,505,903 in sales) — do not even appear in the other states’ top 15 strains. Consumers in Washington during January and February, for example, spent enough on Super Lemon Haze to make it the No. 5 strain in state, but sales in Colorado and Oregon are not sufficient for the strain to break the top 15 barrier.

Oregon cannabis consumers diverge from those in Washington and Colorado when it comes to the strain Blue Dream. That strain is No. 1 in the other states, but Oregonians much prefer Gorille Glue #4.

Meanwhile, Oregon bucks the other states when it comes to Blue Dream. That strain has been dominant in Colorado and Washington since both states introduced adult-use cannabis, but Oregonians prefer Gorilla Glue over Blue Dream; they spent more than twice as much on Gorilla Glue during the first quarter ($1,145,330) than they did on Blue Dream ($546,787).

Flower’s commercial effervescence takes place within states, as well as between them. Oregonians during the first quarter of 2017 were the most fickle. They went crazy for Gorilla Glue in January, when they dropped $694,321 on the strain compared to $293,722 for Blue Dream. But in March they spent just $212,857 on Gorilla Glue, while sales in March bumped Blue Dream down from No. 2 to 12th place.

Colorado customers were a bit more even in their purchases. But Blue Dream has declined steadily since January, while Golden Goat rose and nearly beat Blue Dream before dropping back down again.

It’s steady as she goes in Washington among cannabis consumers, in terms of strain preferences during January and February of 2017.

Sales in Washington during January and February have been nearly the same for all strains — the graph is a series of horizontal straight lines, with Blue Dream holding a commanding lead, followed by Green Crack, Gorilla Glue and Dutch Treat.

Strains are one of the many aspects of the cannabis industry that make the marketplace so very compelling. Instead of entering dispensaries and purchasing generic and uniform “cannabis,” the dispensary experience is more akin to what consumers face in wine stores — yes, everything on the shelves comes from grapes, but that fruit offers a wild variety of flavors, aromas and experiences.

Doug BrownDoug Brown

Doug Brown

Douglas Brown spent more than two decades in newspaper and magazine newsrooms around the country, covering everything from the White House and Capitol Hill to technology policy to crime in New Mexico. Now, he runs Contact High Communications, a leading cannabis public relations firm based in Boulder, CO. He can be reached at

This Post Has One Comment
  1. I’m not sure, but much of this might have to do with the supply side of things. I have a suspicion that these differences between the states are produced to great extent by what Growers are growing, how much supply there is of each strain. To further compound things, a flood of Blue Dream into the market, for example, might serve to not only inflate those sales figures, but also encourage dispensaries to put that strain on sale, therefore even selling more of it. What can look like a “clear consumer preference” can be skewed in great degree by supply, esp. in an immature market. As the market develops nationally, these types of figures may become more and more meaningful. For now, I put little faith in grabbing meaningful data from them.

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