We're spending a lot of hard-earned dough on cannabis

It's time to talk about how much money we're spending on weed these days because we're spending a lot, and more than ever before.

Data collected by the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board for fiscal year 2019 — July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019 — shows exactly how much money we're talking about. Fiscal year 2019 saw retail sales in the state's legal market climb to over $1 billion for the first time. You need 10 digits to write out that number, which makes it unweildly and, unless you're an economic genius, kind of meaningless.

You don't need to be a numbers whiz to have an idea how much you personally spend on marijuana, though. Based upon that sales data and the most recent population estimate from the Census Bureau, $138.98 was spent per Washington resident in the retail marijuana market in fiscal year 2019. In Spokane County, that number is a bit higher at $202.92 spent per resident..

Looking into the data you'll see some pretty obvious and logical trends. The largest counties are home to the highest gross sales numbers. King County, by far the largest in the state, had the highest sales figures. Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane and Clark counties rank second through fifth in both population and in total sales.

Smaller counties tend to be home to smaller sales numbers. Our neighbor to the west, Lincoln County, is home to just over 10,000 residents. It ranks as the fifth least populous county in the state and third lowest in total sales. In Lincoln County, only $52.09 was spent per resident.

Look a bit deeper, though, and it becomes clear we're not just talking about Washingtonians here.

The top three counties in per capita sales are Asotin, Spokane and Whitman. All three border Idaho, a state where marijuana remains illegal. Whitman County averaged $198.44 in per capita sales. Asotin County, a bit further south and home to the Clarkston half of the Lewis-Clark Valley, averaged a whopping $453.09 per capita.

These numbers are suggesting that simple proximity to a population center without a legal market — Coeur d'Alene, Moscow and Lewiston — is a boon to the population center with the legal market — Spokane, Pullman and Clarkston, at least in terms of revenue. Marijuana tourism is a real thing, but in this form it's more of an unintended consequence of the patchwork process of legalization taking place across the country. ♦

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