PACIFIC COUNTY — Business is booming for the local cannabis industry in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, with recreational retailers, growers and processors reporting record sales in recent months.

Cannabis consumers purchased more than $560,000 worth of pot in Pacific County in June, a record high and roughly 50% higher than the same period last year, according the latest figures from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Pot shops cash in

The county’s three licensed recreational marijuana retailers have each experienced significant surges in revenue that have dwarfed figures from last summer. The Freedom Market in Ilwaco sold $165,000, the most among Pacific County’s three retailers. The total was about $47,000 more than June 2019.

Mr. Doobees in Seaview has set monthly sales records for three consecutive months, starting with $118,000 in May, followed by $133,000 in June and more than $150,000 in July, approximately $50,000 more each month than the same period in 2019.

Grower’s Outlet in South Bend had record sales each month since spring, first jumping from $79,000 in February to $99,000 in March. The South Bend business has since averaged more than $115,000 each month since, nearly double the amount over the same period last year.

Exceeding expectations

As many local businesses have braced for a slower-than-usual summer the marijuana industry has undergone a resurgence since spring.

“Every month has exceeded our expectations,” said Mr. Doobees owner HJ Norris, who’s seen an influx of visitors and a surge in sales at his pot shop, situated along U.S. Highway 101 in Seaview, the primary artery leading into the Long Beach Peninsula.

Norris has noticed a difference in customers stopping by in recent months.

“We’re getting a lot more older folks who have come here to escape the metro areas, especially Seattle, or their kids sent them down here because they have a summer home, or rented a home for a few months.”

Sales have been equally steady for flower and concentrates, but edibles seem to be expanding to a new customer base, especially those looking to experiment with marijuana as an alternative medicine for the first time, Norris said.

“They often get the edibles because they’re looking for an alternative to the pharmaceuticals with serious side effect or that cost an arm and a leg — and actually works,” Norris said.

“It used to be our weekends were the big days because people would be traveling through,” he said. “Now, because we have such a steady flow of people staying here, Tuesday and Wednesday are crazy days, which is totally opposite of the six years I’ve been doing this. Those used to be the days I would try to give everybody off. Everybody’s tills are ringing with cash. Hopefully it will run through September and maybe in October. Covid, for our little area, has been a blessing.”

Varied visitors

Fewer restrictions and fair weather have made the peninsula an especially desirable destination this summer, Norris said.

“It’s everybody working from home that can. Pretty much everything is closed down in the metro areas, so where can people go? They come down here. They can go to the restaurants, beaches, go fishing — all the stuff we normally take for granted here got opened back up.”

Norris has seen a lot of the usual traffic from Seattle and Portland, but also unexpected places.

“It’s amazing the broad spectrum of people coming out here. We’re getting people traveling from all over, even some foreigners,” he said. “April through June used to be big months for people bicycling through here but this year they’re actually coming down and staying for a couple months. It’s a lot of people from Texas, California, a ton of people from Nevada. We’ve never heard that before.”

Farmers, processors enjoy high times

As sales climb for cannabis so has demand on local growers and processors. In June producer and processor sales exceeded $2.7 million across 23 licensed businesses in Pacific County, generating more than $150,000 in excise taxes.

Millennium Marijuana in Raymond generated more than $1.1 million in sales in June, by far the most in the county, and 12th most overall in the state over the same period. Two Heads Co. had the second-highest amount in June with $377,000 in sales followed by BMF Washington with $335,000.

Coastal Growers owner Marty Junge, a tier-1 grower in Ilwaco, said demand continues to grow for top-shelf, craft cannabis, particularly for medicinal use.

“I’m at a point now where I can sell more than I can produce,” Junge said, while harvesting plants on Saturday, Aug. 22 in Ilwaco. Junge feels the smaller marijuana producers deliver a product that bigger operations can’t match.

“It takes small, artisanal farmers. Sometimes my Gorilla Glue and Black strains are the only thing that will put them [medical marijuana customers] to sleep,” he said.

Junge harvests almost weekly, approximately 7 to 10 plants at a time, each producing around 150 to 200 grams of flower, depending on the strain.

“The Lemon OG, Gorilla Glue and Cookies are our staples,” Junge said. “But our new strains include Parfait and Cherrylime Soda.”

The new strains come from a Seattle-based seed company called Umami Seeds.

“It’s all about the flavor,” Junge said, “Even though another strain may be more productive or finish faster.”

The only hurdle this summer, according to Junge, has been the heat and a lack of rain.

“I’ve had to ration my water even though I have 200,000 gallons of storage here,” he said. The grow requires about 300 gallons of water per day. “My plants like rainwater because it’s really pure, usually about 10 parts per million or less of anything. It’s as close as you can get to distilled water.”

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