David Abbott

(Arizona Mirror) Arizona’s recreational cannabis sales hit the $100 million mark in March for the first time since sales began, while the medical market maintained a tenuous equilibrium around the $30 million mark per month.

The recreational market has tripled reported totals over the medical side for two of the past three months.

The Arizona Department of Revenue reported that, in April, recreational sales reached nearly $86.5 million, while March sales were just shy of $101 million, marking the first time since recreational sales kicked off in January 2021 the market has hit the nine-figure mark.

The first time both medical and recreational sales hit the $100 million mark combined was in March 2021, when medical sales were slightly more than $73 million and recreational hit $59 million.

Since then, overall cannabis sales have topped $100 million every month. But this marks the first time a single pillar of the market topped that number by itself.

Recreational sales for December 2022 through February 2023 were $93.4 million, $91.3 and $84.5 million respectively.

Medical sales have declined consistently — at times precipitously — since reaching a peak of $73.3 million in April 2021.

July 2021 saw medical cannabis sales drop below $40 million. Since September 2022, they have fluctuated between about $33 million and $28.6 million in February 2023, the lowest in monthly sales since the ADOR began reporting sales totals for the programs.

Medical marijuana sales in April were $30.3 million.

The last time recreational and medical sales were anywhere near equal was October 2021, when adult-use sales were $65.8 million and medical sales were $64.4 million.

Taxes collected on recreational sales in April were $15.4 million and the total for both programs was $24.8 million.

The state collects a 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.

The excise tax on adult-use marijuana sales has yielded $154.6 million so far in 2023. In 2021, recreational cannabis generated $32.9 for eleven months of sales in a brand-new market, and in 2022 that number ballooned to $132.8 million. Since the program launched, the state has collected more than $320 million in marijuana excise taxes.

One-third of those taxes are dedicated to community college and provisional community college districts; 31% to public safety, including  police, fire departments, fire districts and first responders; 25% to the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund; and 10% to the justice reinvestment fund, which is 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 ADOR’s tax reports.

The ADHS reports that, as of May, there were 127,288 qualifying patient cardholders, roughly the same as there were in April.

In January 2021, ADHS reported a total of 299,054 qualifying patients, a number that has been dwindling month-by-month.

Through May, Arizona medical cannabis consumers have purchased 27,993 pounds of marijuana in various forms. The total for May was 5,635 lbs.