Alaska marijuana sales drop in November

Alaskans bought less marijuana in November than they did in October, the first time the infant industry posted a decline in 2017.

 

The Alaska Department of Revenue’s excise tax division released November figures on Tuesday. According to the division, Alaska’s marijuana farms sold 857 pounds of bud (or flower) and 777 pounds of trim to retail stores in November. That’s down from 1,004 pounds of bud and 626 pounds of trim in October.

Alaska taxes marijuana at $50 per ounce for bud and $15 per ounce for other plant parts. As a result, state tax revenue also fell from $953,591 to $872,197 between October and November. The October figure was a record high for Alaska, where the first recreational marijuana shops opened in the last days of October 2016.

Taxes are assessed at the wholesale level, from farm to retail store. Because marijuana remains federally illegal, it cannot legally cross state lines. Any marijuana sold in Alaska is grown in Alaska, which means excise tax figures are a good bellwether for the health of the industry, which was created by a 2014 ballot measure.

Fifty-three percent of Alaskans voted to legalize recreational marijuana sales here, making the state the third in the country to do so. Alaska, which had previously allowed no medical marijuana sales, became the first state to create a legal marijuana industry from scratch.

Despite the drop in sales between October and November, the number of taxpaying marijuana farms grew by one, from 66 to 67, indicating that the industry has not yet met demand and that the drop may be attributable to agricultural cycles.

The decline may also be due to seasonal cycles seen in alcohol excise taxes. Thanks to Alaska’s heavily seasonal fishing and tourism industries, the state’s population booms in the summer months and alcohol sales rise. In the winter, alcohol sales fall, with a small spike in December for the midwinter holidays.

Kelly Mazzei, excise tax director for the state, said it’s too early to tell whether marijuana will follow that seasonality or whether growing cycles will determine the ebb and flow of the marijuana industry.

“I guess time will tell,” she wrote by email.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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