Report: Legal Cannabis Sales in Washington State Displacing Illicit Market

Olympia, WA: Adult-use cannabis retailers in Washington sold an estimated 26 metric tons of cannabis and cannabis-infused products between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017, according to a report by the RAND Corporation.

The report, prepared for the Washington State Liquor and Control Board, determined that licensed retail sales doubled from the prior year. Nearly 70 percent of all cannabis sales were for marijuana flower.

Comparing market sales data with self-reported data on marijuana use, authors estimated, "In the third year after implementing a regulatory system for cannabis, between 40 percent and 60 percent of THC obtained by state residents was likely purchased in Washington’s state-licensed stores." Marijuana not obtained via retail sales presumably "came through the illicit market or from those authorized to grow for medicinal purposes."

Commenting on the report, NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf suggested that various factors, including elevated tax rates and local moratoriums on cannabis retailers, play a role in the perpetuation of the illicit cannabis market. "That said, it is encouraging to see that, over time, licensed retail sales are gradually displacing a significant portion of the underground market. Moving forward, one would expect this trend to continue and for the illicit market to become further marginalized."

For more information, contact Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the RAND report, "Assessing Cannabis Supply and Demand in Washington State," is online.