Guinea Pig of East Coast, Massachusetts Adult-Use Sales Hogging Up Market
Massachusetts is one of four states where voters passed adult-use cannabis legalization measures five years ago today, providing the most populated market in New England a head start on its neighbors.
While it took Massachusetts two years before launching adult-use sales in November 2018, it was the first state east of Colorado to serve adult-use consumers.
Also passing adult-use ballot measures in the 2016 election, Nevada voters approved Question 2 with a 54.5% majority, California voters passed Proposition 64 with a 57.1% majority, and Maine voters squeezed through Question 1 with a 50.3% majority
Launching adult-use sales July 1, 2017, Nevada was the quickest among the four states to roll out a retail program. In its fourth fiscal year (from July 2020 through June 2021), Nevada became a billion-dollar market, averaging $83.6 million in sales each month, according to data from the Nevada Department of Taxation.
Representing the largest cannabis market in the world, California launched adult-use sales Jan. 1, 2018. The retail behemoth averaged $430 million in monthly sales through the first half of 2021, according to data from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
Maine took the longest, launching adult-use sales on Oct. 9, 2020. Still finding its footing, Maine has averaged $6.4 million per month in sales this calendar year, according to data from the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy.
Meanwhile, the guinea pig of the East Coast, Massachusetts took two years following the passage of Question 4 (by a 53.7% majority) before launching adult-use sales three years ago this month.
Since that launch, sales figures remain on an upward trajectory. Massachusetts eclipsed $1.1 billion in the first 10 months of 2021 for a monthly average of more than $110 million, according to data from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission.
Massachusetts currently has the fourth largest adult-use retail market in the U.S., behind California (averaging $430 million per month in 2021), Colorado (averaging $156.9 million) and Illinois (averaging $112 million).
Cumulatively, Massachusetts has sold more than 2.2 billion in adult-use cannabis since launching its retail market three years ago.
When Massachusetts eclipsed the $2-billion benchmark in August, Cannabis Control Commission Executive Director Shawn Collins said in a press release, “This milestone speaks to the success of licensees that have interacted with the commission from the application stage, maintained compliance with our strict regulations, and contribute every day to communities across the commonwealth.”
That adult-use retail revenue is driven by 165 operating dispensaries and three delivery services currently available in Massachusetts. During its first year, from November 2018 to November 2019, Massachusetts had 33 operating adult-use dispensaries that sold $393.7 million of cannabis.
According to Massachusetts’ previous week adult-use product distribution stats from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, cannabis flower made up 30% of the market, while raw pre-rolls accounted for 27%, infused edibles accounted for 20%, vape products accounted for 14% and concentrates accounted for 5%.
But with Maine’s adult-use market coming online last year, and with Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Vermont gearing to launch adult-use sales in 2022 (and Virginia aiming for 2024), Massachusetts will no longer be the lone player on the East Coast.
With the forthcoming retail boom appearing inevitable up and down the Atlantic, brands and operators can prepare now to meet additional consumer demand in those expanding markets.
Lessons learned from Massachusetts could prove key as momentum picks up.