According to the Seattle Times, legal bud sales for March in Spokane County eclipsed those of basic groceries such as milk, bread, and even wine. On average, a normal household spends $225.64 on marijuana each month, just under $10 dollars shy of the $232.70 spent on beer. If sales stay constant then the Seattle Times predicts that marijuana could outsell bookstores, venues, and museums. There was some skepticism over what these numbers actually mean. Is marijuana actually more popular? One local radio host from KIRO, Ron Upshaw, voiced his criticism of the study, “I think it’s a little bit apples and oranges… Actually comparing apples and oranges is much easier because they’re both fruit, around the same size, they sell for about the same amount. So when you’re just looking at that and comparing yearly receipts it makes a lot more sense.” He then went on to supply his own research which found that Americans spend $570 billion on cars every year. Upshaw said, “Whoa, Americans like cars more than bread! Well, not really, cars are a lot more expensive than bread.”
One problem that arises from this study is that it applies the sales to everyone who lives in the area, but that’s not a very accurate approach. In fact, 17 shops in the Spokane area are purely recreational, which means that people from all over can buy marijuana, as long as they’re 21. This immediately discounts the notion that the amount of legal cannabis sold in Spokane Country is entirely from residents. Next, there is another variable to be examined, one referred to as the “80/20 rule.” The phrase comes from an independent study on Washington’s marijuana market from the Rand Corporation. The study found that the rule applies to this situation, and what the rule says is that 20% of the population is responsible for 80% of the effect. In other words, 1/5th of the entire population of Washington is responsible for 4/5ths of the legal cannabis sales.
This number seems a little high as well, but it makes more sense than imagining that every household in Spokane is spending over $200 on weed a month. Anyway, while these studies are interesting and fun, it’s hard to find out, with accuracy, how much more an average person spends on marijuana than groceries. The reason is that most of these studies base the groceries part off of the Consumer Expenses Survey which is ran by the federal government, and there are no breakdowns as reliable as this for the marijuana industry. Chief economist at Avista Corp, Grant Forsythe, said this about the data challenge in the cannabis sector, “We don’t have a lot of consumption data, so it’s hard to see how the market is going to evolve.”