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California Sales Ignite in February, As Vapes, Edibles Keep on Burning

During just the first two months of recreational cannabis in California, sales for all types of cannabis products in the state expanded rapidly, a development probably connected in part to more dispensaries receiving sales licenses. But increased consumer demand, too, plays a role.

To wit: January sales reached $143.80 million, but in February sales leapt to $195.30 million, an increase of nearly 36 percent according to cannabis market research firm BDS Analytics. Those kinds of month-to-month rises are rare. When Colorado began recreational sales in January of 2014, for example, sales reached $46.99 million. In February they actually dipped, to $46.63. March sales rose to $55.89 million, but that still represented a rise of just 19 percent between January and March in the Centennial State.

Golden State sales, by comparison, sprinted out of the gates. And a few California trends that rooted during 2017 continued to gain strength during the first two months of recreational cannabis sales.

One anticipated result of the recreational pivot was upped prices, and indeed sales prices are mounting. Prices for nearly all cannabis products rose between December and January, and the price elevation continued during February. The average retail price for a cannabis product in January (ranging from relatively expensive vape pens to comparitively cheaper grams of flower) was $36.53. In February, that average rose to $37.97, a boost of about 4 percent. Of the main categories, edibles rose the most during the one-month period, from $17.48 to $18.69 — a 7 percent boost.

Pre-recreational California trends, such as an extreme passion for vape pens and generally elevated sales of edibles products, continued to gain ground during February. And interest in both of these products helped diminish flower’s market share.

January sales in California already saw upped consumer demand for edibles and concentrates.

In January, flower captured 43 percent of all cannabis purchases, followed by concentrates at 29 percent and edibles at 17 percent. During that first month of recreational sales, too, vapes commanded 23 percent of all cannabis sales, and 78 percent of concentrates sales.

February sales grew by 36 percent compared to January, and market share for concentrates (especially vapes) and edibles continued to rise.

But in February, flower’s market share dipped to 41 percent, while concentrates rose to 30, and edibles to 18. Meanwhile, vapes continued with the muscle-flexing — really, at this point in California it is like they are preening — by upping their share of the overall cannabis marketplace to 24 percent and their share of concentrates to 79 percent.

Some of the numbers are big — sales rise 36 percent! And others seem small — vape market share rises a percentage point between January and February. But together, plus thousands of other data points, they begin to tell a tale about California cannabis, at least in the early days of recretional legalization.

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

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