Bud and booze sales setting records

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Booze and pot sales are hitting a high note during the pandemic, with sales of cannabis up about 25% in both March and April in Jackson County, and retail alcohol sales rising 48% last month.

“A population that sedates itself is less likely to revolt,” quipped Medford City Councilor Clay Bearnson, paraphrasing a comic strip.

According to figures from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Jackson County had $4,259,465 in cannabis sales in April compared to $3,062,381 last year. In March, the county saw $3,868,949 in cannabis sales compared to 3,049,153 in the same month last year.

Josephine County also posted record sales, with $1,480,360 in April compared to $956,427 last year, and $1,287,896 in March compared to $931,452 in the same month last year.

Statewide, cannabis sales hit a record $89 million in April, a 45% increase over April 2019. In March, the second-highest month ever recorded, cannabis sales hit $84.5 million.

The previous record of $79.4 million was set in August 2019, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

OLCC wasn’t able to provide county-specific data for alcohol, but consumers increased spending at stores to buy six-packs, wine and liquor as consumption at bars and restaurants fell sharply.

Sales of alcohol at bars and restaurants barely registered in April compared to last year, going from $13.5 million last year down to $88,000 this year, according to OLCC.

At the same time, sales at stores increased by 48%, from $39,025,604.85 last April to $57,915,189.07 this April.
Statewide sales of alcoholic beverages increased 10 percent April over April, from $52,478,377.07 to $58,003,400.97.
In March, sales of alcohol hit almost $66 million, a 20% increase over March 2019.

Bearnson has a unique perspective on consumption habits for both cannabis and alcohol, being co-owner of The Gypsy Blues bar in Medford and also an employee at The Oregon Farmacy, a downtown Medford cannabis store.

“We’ve seen an up-tick in cannabis sales since the pandemic took effect,” Bearnson said. “Sales are at premarket saturation levels.”

The Farmacy was one of the first cannabis stores to open in the downtown area but is now surrounded by many other stores.

Bearnson said The Gypsy shut down March 16, the day before St. Patrick’s, when Oregon began its stay-in-place order that closed bars and many restaurants.

He said he reopened last Friday, but with many social distancing requirements in place.
“Some of the restrictions are ridiculous,” Bearnson said.

Customers aren’t allowed to sit at the bar, but five or six people can sit around a table, he said.

Also, customers aren’t allowed to remain standing, and tables have to be positioned six feet away from each other.
Because of these restrictions, the bar is generally only two-thirds full, he said.

The bar is taking a number of precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as employees wearing of masks and taking extra steps to keep things clean.

Bearnson said he looks forward to the day when the state allows some easing of restrictions in bars and restaurants.
“We’ve had to forfeit karaoke for the time being,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

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