With the end of 2023 in sight, New York’s adult use cannabis market remains quite small, with 26 licensed storefronts open for business along with Cannabis Growers Showcases – temporary “farmers market”-style events – constituting the only legal outlets for sales. In this article, we break down some sales data recently released by state officials and use it to provide an estimate as to how much cannabis flower has been sold through licensed retail channels in New York.
The New York Cannabis Control Board (CCB) met on October 17, 2023. During the meeting, John Kagia, Director of Policy for the state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), provided an update on sales and the state of the adult use market. (Kagia’s update on retail sales in New York’s adult use market begins at 29:45 of the linked video.)
According to Kagia, year-to-date through September, New York’s licensed adult use market has generated a paltry $83 million in retail sales. Monthly totals are as follows:
Kagia noted that plateauing monthly sales in Q3 can be attributed in part to the fact that “several” retailers were “completely closed or substantially closed” for major renovations in August and September. He also pointed out that five new retailers will be opening “imminently,” providing more outlets to which growers can sell their production.
Cannabis Growers Showcases (CGSs) – the “farmers market” initiative allowing growers and processors to partner with a licensed retailer to sell their products at temporary events – have generated $1.5 million year-to-date, according to Kagia. He noted that the number of days that CGS events have been held is “about the equivalent of having two or three dispensaries operating in that period.”
A discussion of the sales mix at CGS events showed that $790,000 of the $1.5 million in sales – 52% – was generated by flower products. 13,451 “units” of flower products were sold, making for an average unit price of $58.73.
When comparing that average price point with the flower products listed in menus of licensed retailers in New York, we can assume that the units sold were predominantly eighths or quarters of an ounce. Even if we assume that every flower product sold at a CGS was a quarter of an ounce (7 grams), that translates to over 94,000 grams sold, or about 208 pounds. As it’s likely that a sizable portion of flower sales at CGSs were eighths of an ounce (3.5 grams), it’s safe to assume that under 200 pounds of flower has been sold at these events, perhaps even under 150 pounds.
Applying the sales breakdown for CGSs to overall sales allows us to extrapolate an estimate of how much cannabis flower has been sold through licensed retailers in New York this year.
If 52% of the $83 million generated by licensed retailers year-to-date has been from sales of flower, that amounts to a bit under $43.2 million in flower sales from January through September 2023. Dividing that amount by the average unit price above gives us 734,888 units of flower products sold by licensed New York cannabis retailers in the first nine months of the year.
If we assume each unit sold was a quarter-ounce – which is likely a generous assumption – that would amount to over 5.14 million grams of flower sold at retail, or 11,355 pounds. As with our breakdown of the CGS sales data, however, it’s almost certain that a significant portion of the units sold were smaller than a quarter-ounce. If we assume each unit was an eighth of an ounce, then the estimated flower sales volume would be halved, giving us 5,678 pounds.
The median of those two estimates would be 8,517 pounds of flower sold through licensed retail channels in New York’s adult use market from January through September 2023. At almost $43.2 million in flower sales in the period, this estimate would indicate an average retail price of $5,068 per pound, or $11.19 per gram, which would not be an atypical price point in a young adult use market that lacks significant competition on the retail end.
During his presentation to the CCB meeting, Kagia noted that the number of CGS “days” scheduled for the remainder of 2023 was almost 10 times the number held thus far. Even so, if we assume that CGSs have resulted in about 150 pounds of flower being sold to consumers, that would lead to about 1,500 additional pounds of product being sold through these events during the rest of the year. Overall, it does not appear that CGS events are moving the needle in terms of providing an outlet for substantial inventory to be sold.
Projecting retail sales in New York’s adult use market has been something of a fool’s errand to this point, but let’s assume Q4 retail sales reach $75 million, which would represent nearly a 50% increase from Q3. Using the $5,068 per pound average retail price point from above, that level of sales revenue would indicate 7,695 pounds of flower sold at retail in the final quarter of 2023, or a bit over 16,200 pounds for a full-year total when adding the 8,517 pounds estimated to have been sold in the first nine months of the year.
Ultimately, it appears safe to say that under 20,000 pounds of flower will be sold through licensed retail channels in New York in 2023. For context, we estimated that roughly 16,500 pounds of flower was sold at retail in Maine’s adult use market in just the first six months of 2023. Clearly, New York’s troubled retail rollout has resulted in the state’s adult use market being one of, if not the smallest in the country this year in terms of retail flower sales volume. On the upper end, Michigan retailers are on pace to sell almost a million pounds of flower to consumers and patients in 2023.
Given reports that roughly 600,000 pounds of dry cannabis was generated by licensed cultivators in New York from the 2022 growing season through to late summer this year, it appears that the state’s adult use cannabis market has a long way to go in balancing supply and demand, especially as cultivators continue to produce. Achieving that balance will be contingent on opening new retail outlets as quickly as possible.