We rank the nine states in the U.S. that now have a full adult-use marijuana market to see which had the biggest first-month of legal sales.
Illinois opened its legal recreational cannabis market on Jan. 1, 2020, making it the first state to launch a full cannabis market in the new decade. There is no question Illinois’ recreational cannabis sales debut was historic, but how did it match up to other states?
Since Colorado broke the mold back in January 2014, a total of 11 states have legalized recreational marijuana. Vermont and Maine are included in that list, but neither state has set up regulations to sell and tax adult-use cannabis.
That leaves nine states to tally up to find out which one had the biggest first month of recreational marijuana sales in the U.S. Just to keep you guessing, we’ll start with number nine.
#9 Alaska (launch Oct. 29, 2016)
Alaska’s legal cannabis marketplace launched back in 2016. When the first dispensary opened its doors on Oct. 29 until five weeks later on Dec. 6, total cannabis retail sales were $750,581.59, according to a report from Anchorage Daily News.
Yes, the amount is from more than a month of recorded data, but it’s Alaska and they have the smallest population on the list so let’s let that slide. The state struggled with supply issues, but since the launch, Alaska has seen its revenue from state marijuana taxes increase almost tenfold from year to year.
#8 Washington (launch July 8, 2014)
Washington State made history by opening recreational sales in 2014, second only to Colorado, in first states to legalize recreational marijuana. In the first month, Washingtonians bought $3.2 million worth of cannabis, according to the state’s Liquor Control Board.
The state’s launch was mild compared to Colorado’s. Some factors may include a tighter set of regulations and licensing restrictions in year one, in addition to a low number of open dispensaries. Only 18 dispensaries sold recreational cannabis in the state’s first month of sales.
Washington’s market has grown since the launch in 2014. According to a report from 2017, Washington State’s legal market was averaging $4.8 million in daily marijuana sales.
#7 Michigan (launch Dec. 1, 2019)
It was a cold Sunday on Dec. 1, 2019, when Michigan launched its recreational marijuana market, but thousands of customers flocked to Ann Arbor stores and many stood in line to purchase recreational cannabis. Michigan’s first month sales of recreational marijuana alone reached $6.5 million.
When taking into account that only three cannabis retailers, all in Ann Arbor, were licensed in time to open, first-day sales of $221,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Since that time, Michigan’s marijuana market has expanded. In the first days of 2020, Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency had issued recreational marijuana business licenses to 26 retail stores.
Michigan voters approved Proposal 1 to legalize recreational cannabis in 2018, but nearly 80 percent of municipalities opted out of recreational sales, including Detroit.
#6 Massachusetts (launch Nov. 20, 2018)
Massachusetts made their claim to marijuana fame in Nov. 2018 by becoming the first East Coast state to legalize recreational marijuana. In the first month of adult-use sales, Massachusetts cannabis dispensaries rang up $9.3 million in recreational cannabis products, according to Marijuana Business Daily.
Those numbers are impressive considering shops were closed for a full day for Thanksgiving, and only two cannabis dispensaries were open for most of the first month. Yep, two, you read that right. In that time, dispensaries in Massachusetts sold 234,656 recreational marijuana products.
Due to limited supply, operating dispensaries set limits such as per-person transactions and mandatory appointments for adult-use customers to get in. Massachusetts has expanded its marijuana market, licensed more dispensaries, and hit nearly $400 million in one year of sales.
#5 Colorado (launch Jan. 1, 2014)
Colorado is a legend when it comes to marijuana debuts. The state made history on Jan. 1, 2014 when it became the first state in the country to open a legal recreational cannabis market. In the first month of sales, Colorado dispensaries sold $14.7 million in recreational marijuana.
Six years after the recreational market launch, Colorado experiences monthly recreational sales of over $100 million on the regular. In 2017, Colorado hit a milestone when reports showed that the state had generated $500 million in cannabis tax revenue since it opened its legal recreational market.
Colorado has proven there are perks to going first.
#4 Oregon (launch Oct. 1, 2015)
Oregon made $3.2 million on the first day of recreational marijuana sales alone, leading to a huge first week of $11 million in sales. The debut outpaced the opening of Washington and Colorado, the only two states with recreational legalization at the time. For this reason, Oregon lands in the number four spot for first-month sales.
Oregon dispensaries sold $14 million in recreational marijuana in the first taxed month of sales, which was Jan. 2016. The no-tax discount may have boosted purchases, placing actual sales numbers way over expectation. In addition, Oregon launched its cannabis market by only allowing recreational sales from established medical marijuana dispensaries. That means on day one of sales there were 320 dispensaries open for business.
In Jan. 2017 Oregon began to open recreational-only cannabis dispensaries.
#3 Nevada (launch July 1, 2017)
When it comes to making a splash, no state can really compare to Nevada’s rollout or recreational cannabis. In the state’s first month of recreational cannabis sales, dispensaries rang up $27 million in recreational cannabis products, blowing past other opening month figures for legal cannabis states at the time.
Nevada opted for a different method in opening its recreational cannabis market by utilizing an early start program. The approach, like Oregon’s, allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational products prior to the state’s recreational licensing launch.
Other factors in the big launch include dispensaries opening at midnight on July 1, and of course, Las Vegas, a city known for its thriving tourism industry and where 36 of the 53 dispensaries in the state were located on the first day of sales.
#2 Illinois (launch Jan. 1, 2020)
As the country rang in the new decade, Illinois recreational cannabis dispensaries rang in nearly $3.2 million in sales in one day. After one month of sales, Illinois’ cannabis market hit $40 million in sales.
The launch did come with some struggles when several dispensaries ran out of product and had to close temporarily. Reports have revealed a shortage of cannabis flower in the state. However, Illinois’ market continues to grow as the state takes step towards new areas of expansion.
On Valentine’s Day, the state began accepting applications for cannabis infusers, craft growers and transporter licenses. Illinois state officials are expected to approve up to 40 craft cannabis grower licenses by July 1.
#1 California (launch Jan. 1, 2018)
It’s should not be a big shocker that the number one spot for first-month sales of recreational marijuana goes to the world’s largest cannabis market. On Jan. 1, 2018, California launched recreational sales and by the end of the month, dispensaries had sold $114.5 million in products.
California’s day one sales on Jan. 1, 2018 revealed around 70,000 people purchased about $5.2 million in gross sales. Even though it was off to a rocky start, the state pulled $2.5 billion in legal cannabis sales in 2018. That number jumped to an estimated $3.1 billion in 2019, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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