The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) recently released its monthly report on the state’s medical cannabis program for March 2020. Headlines in numerous news outlets attributed a large month-over-month uptick in sales volume figures in March to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, prior years have also seen sales increases of comparable, or even larger, magnitudes recorded in March. Additionally, a breakdown of daily sales volume and transaction figures indicates that coronavirus-related announcements from state officials may have temporarily elevated sales in the middle portion of the month, but appear to have suppressed them in the latter third of March.
As of March, Arizona’s medical cannabis program counted 230,317 patients on its rolls. That figure is up by 1.6% from the 226,677 patients registered in the program at the end of February. The number of registered patients in Arizona in March 2020 is also up by 18.9% year-over-year, from 193,672 in March 2019.
According to ADHS numbers, 15,408 pounds of cannabis flower were sold through the state’s dispensaries in March, a figure that is up by 15.1% compared to the 13,385 pounds retailed to registered patients in February. March 2020’s flower sales volume represents a new record high for Arizona’s market, after this metric had seen consistent declines since peaking previously in November 2019. March 2020’s flower sales volume is up by 32% from 11,674 pounds in the same month the year prior.
The ADHS report also includes sales volume figures for edibles and “marijuana other,” which constitutes extracts and non-edible infused products. March saw 512 pounds of edibles sold, up by 11.8% from 458 pounds sold the month prior. March 2020’s edibles sales volume is actually down year-over-year, by 6.2%, from 546 pounds in the same month a year ago. March is the third straight month in which an annual downturn in edibles sales volume has been reported.
“Marijuana other” products saw their sales volume continue to grow in March 2020. 1,175 pounds of “marijuana other” products were retailed in Arizona in March compared to 1,043 in February, an increase of 12.7%. This product category has experienced massive year-over-year growth, with March 2020’s sales volume up by 64.8%, from 713 pounds in March 2019.
Combined sales volume of all product types reached 17,095 pounds in March, up by 14.8% from February’s total sales volume of 14,886 pounds. As with flower sales volume, March 2020’s cumulative sales volume represents a new record high for Arizona’s market and breaks a streak of downturns that held since the prior peak of 15,714 pounds was achieved in November 2019. March 2020’s cumulative sales volume is up 32.2% relative to a year prior, when dispensaries sold 12,933 pounds of product to patients.
Arizona’s Spot Index was somewhat elevated through the first three weeks of March, reaching its current year-to-date peak in the week ending March 20. For March overall, Arizona’s Spot was up by 4% from February.
We noted March 2020’s sales appear to track with previously-observed growth in the state’s expanding medical market, with an added boost from COVID-19. On a daily basis, the ADHS data shows that there was a spike in sales on March 13, shortly after Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a “public health emergency” on March 11. (The March 11 emergency declaration did not include a “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” order.)
On March 13, over 40,000 transactions were recorded at dispensaries statewide, a level that was achieved previously on February 14, 2020, and nearly so on the final day of January 2020. However, on the prior occasions that similar amounts of transactions were documented, only about 800 pounds of all product types were sold. On March 13, over 900 pounds of product was sold to patients, indicating that purchases were larger, on average, and people were stocking up. Another big sales day occurred a week later, on Friday, March 20, when nearly 850 pounds of product was sold to patients. After that, though, daily sales volume dropped off and did not exceed 700 pounds for any day in the remainder of March. For context, daily sales volumes topped 700 pounds on every Friday in both January and February this year. Even on March 31, the day after Arizona’s governor issued a stay-at-home order, only about 550 pounds were sold in roughly 27,000 transactions.
Overall, it appears that COVID-19-related bulk buying did boost sales somewhat, particularly in the period from March 13 to March 20, but it is likely that the month’s sales totals would not have been appreciably different if the pandemic had not occurred, given the downturn later in the month.