In Washington, adult use sales for 2016 increased by 95 percent from a year earlier to reach $696 million.
Washington’s sales of adult use marijuana last year were nearly double from the year prior, Marijuana Business Daily reports. Recreational cannabis sales increased 95 percent from 2015 to reach $696 million in 2016.
Although adult use sales were higher in Colorado in 2016, Washington started to make up ground toward the end of the year. Washington had over $1.1 billion in combined recreational and medical marijuana sales for the year, and in October, November and December, it surpassed Colorado in total monthly marijuana sales.
Washington’s recreational market received a boost in July when the state’s medical marijuana program rolled into its recreational program. From then on, dispensaries that had previously served only medical marijuana patients serviced the needs of both medical and recreational customers. After the integration, adult use cannabis sales jumped 18 percent to pull in $15 million more than the previous month, and from there on out Washington’s monthly cannabis sales consistently topped $110 million.
Washington’s Department of Revenue released its encouraging marijuana data days before White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested the administration could take action against Washington and other states that have passed adult use legislation. While cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance. President Barack Obama’s administration had taken a hands-off approach, at one point releasing a statement that the federal government wouldn’t actively pursue states that had approved recreational marijuana despite federal laws.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has said he’s already preparing for a legal fight over any federal attempt to preempt his state’s marijuana laws.
“I will resist any efforts by the Trump administration to undermine the will of the voters in Washington state,” Ferguson said in an interview.
Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions earlier this month that presented arguments for Washington’s state-regulated recreational marijuana industry.
“Given the limited resources available for marijuana law enforcement, a return to ‘full prohibition’ is highly unlikely to end the illicit production, trafficking and consumption of marijuana,” Ferguson and Inslee wrote in the letter.
Advocates for legalization argue that regulating, rather than prohibiting, marijuana reduces law enforcement costs and crime related to the illegal market, improves public safety, and generates revenue for state and local governments. Since Washington started selling legal marijuana in 2014, the state has generated $401 million in tax revenue.
Washington is among the nation’s oldest adult-use markets and is one of eight states that have legalized marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. Voters in four states passed recreational measures this past November. ArcView Market Research predicts the country’s legal cannabis market will reach $21 billion in sales by 2020, although Marijuana Business Factbook estimates the industry could be worth up to $44 billion by then.