David Abbott

(Arizona Mirror) Total Arizona marijuana sales in 2022 mirrored the total from 2021, the first year of the legal adult use market, but the paths that each year reached $1.4 billion in sales were strikingly different.

In 2021, medical marijuana sales were the driving factor, accounting for nearly 55% — about $760 million — of the total. In 2022, the recreational cannabis market soared to nearly 70% of sales, or more than $950 million, as the medical market crashed to slightly more than $500 million.

The recreational market closed out 2022 with its best monthly total in December, clocking in at about $86.6 million, a slight increase from the $85.8 in November sales. Medical marijuana sales were stagnant, with a slight drop from November to December 2022 from $31.9 to $31.1 month-to-month.

The overall total cannabis sales for both markets since the advent of legal adult-use in January 2021 is $2.9 billion.

Medical sales have declined nearly every month since April 2021, with few exceptions. Sales that month reached $73.2 million, but with the exception of July 2021 when sales hit $71.6 million after a $5 million drop in June that year, medical sales have never come close to that total again. The last time medical users spent more than $50 million in a month was April 2022.

Recreational sales have remained robust as patients flock to the recreational market and manufacturers of higher-potency medical marijuana products — edibles and other ingestables — have begun to tailor to the recreational marketplace. The lowest full-month total sales for adult-use was about $40 million in February 2021, the first full month of legal recreational sales.

Tax revenues collected in December totaled nearly $23 million.

The state collects 16% excise tax on recreational sales in addition to the standard sales tax; medical patients pay roughly 6% in state sales tax. Local jurisdictions charge an additional 2% or so for all marijuana sales.

One-third of recreational taxes collected are dedicated to community college and provisional community college districts; 31% to public safety — police, fire departments, fire districts, first responders — 25% to the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund, and 10% to the justice reinvestment fund, dedicated to providing public health services, counseling, job training and other social services for communities that have been adversely affected and disproportionately impacted by marijuana arrests and criminalization.

The Arizona Department of Health Services, which oversees cannabis regulation in the state, releases monthly reports on the medical program that are generally a month ahead of the Arizona Department of Revenue reports.

The total number of cardholders as of January was 153,845 — 128,621 of those qualifying patients. ADHS reported that, in December 2022 those numbers were 155,682 and 129,836, respectively, a reduction of about 1,200. Cardholders in the state are broken into five categories: qualified patients, designated caregivers, dispensary agents, facility agents and lab agents.

Those numbers stand in stark contrast to the state of medical marijuana at the beginning of 2021 when recreational sales began.

In January 2021, ADHS reported a total of 309,479 medical cardholders. At that time, there were 299,054 qualified patients and 9,489 dispensary agents. (There was no facility agent designation at the time.)

As to the amount of medical marijuana sold, in January consumers purchased 5,435 pounds of cannabis, 4,645 in “flower” and the remainder in edibles or other forms. In January 2021, Arizona medical cannabis consumers purchased 18,708 pounds of product.

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