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February 1, 2024

A blue whale worth of weed: Mass. cannabis businesses sold record $1.8B in 2023

A yellow wall display in a retail cannabis store Photos | Courtesy of Cannabis of Worcester Cannabis of Worcester, a dispensary on Millbrook Street in Worcester

Despite fears of lower prices, store closures, and increased competition from surrounding states, the Massachusetts cannabis industry grew 20% last year, as the state’s dispensaries sold a record high of nearly $1.8 billion worth of cannabis, with Worcester County operating the most businesses of any in the state.

Recreational businesses sold $1.57-billion worth of product, while medical dispensaries contributed $225.6 million, according to sales statistics uploaded to the website of the Cannabis Control Commission, the Worcester-based regulatory agency tasked with governing the state’s marijuana industry. 

The combined total of nearly $1.8 billion was a 20.4% increase over the combined total of $1.49 billion seen in 2022. 

The industry continues to develop new products and consumption methods, including cannabis-infused beverages and joints infused with cannabis-derived concentrates, but it seems most consumers still prefer consuming via more traditional means, as the state sold 232,894 pounds worth of cannabis flower to recreational consumers in 2023. 

For reference, the average blue whale — the heaviest known animal to have ever lived — weighs between 200,000 and 300,000 pounds, according to the website for The Marine Mammal Center, a California-based marine wildlife hospital. 

All of this cannabis has to be grown somewhere, and CCC figures show the total amount of maximum canopy space that could be utilized by the state’s 126 operational cannabis cultivation licenses amounts to 3.65 million square feet – enough to cover over 63 football fields. 

Cannabis flower sales totalled $629.9 million to recreational consumers, accounting for 40.2% of the overall sales total. This percentage closely mirrored stats seen in previous years, as flower made up 39.3% of the market in 2022 and 42.57% of the market in 2021. 

Cannabis joints, known as pre-rolls in the industry, were the second most popular category at 16.4%. Vape products were third at 19.7%, while edibles came in fourth at 13%. 

Pre-rolls that aren’t infused with cannabis concentrates are tallied in a separate category than infused pre-rolls. Infused pre-rolls accounted for 1.65% of sales totals, up from 0.54% in 2021. 

The increase in total sales came despite the average price of cannabis flower plummeting; the average cost of a gram of cannabis was $5.66 in December, down nearly 60% from the price of $14.13 seen in December 2020.  

While recreational cannabis sales continue to climb, medical sales continued to decline; the 2023 total of $225.6 million was nearly a 17% decrease from the 2022 total of $271.7 million. 

The state’s medical marijuana program had 91,792 certified active medical marijuana patients in January, a 5.2% decrease from 96,835 certified active patients in January 2022, according to data provided in the CCC’s monthly meeting materials from those months. 

Worcester County has 85 adult-use cannabis retailers and 20 medical dispensaries, with a total of 292 businesses with at least a provisional license, the most of any county in Massachusetts. 

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