In 2020, Norman’s medical marijuana industry quickly proved to be an emerging market.
The marijuana industry locally and statewide more than doubled its revenue compared to 2019, as the state’s new industry grew to one of the biggest marijuana markets in the country. While some attribute the industry’s success to the COVID-19 pandemic, others suggest medical marijuana would’ve seen continual growth in 2020 regardless.
Below is a summary of the industry’s growth in 2020 in Norman and statewide, its impact on local residents and what experts expect for medical marijuana in 2021.
Local revenue increase
Norman’s industry saw a boom in sales throughout much of 2020, particularly in the summer months.
According to data from the Oklahoma Tax Commission, Norman dispensaries produced $33.6 million in total revenue in 2020, doubling the $16.1 million dispensaries put out in 2019. Norman dispensaries also remitted more than $2.9 million in city and state sales tax in 2020.
Local dispensaries saw their biggest spike in revenue in July, when dispensaries produced more than $4.2 million in revenue, the highest-revenue month in Norman. October finished as the second-highest revenue month for Norman dispensaries, which remitted $3.2 million.
However, dispensaries weren’t able to match July’s peak in the months that followed, and not all dispensaries benefited from the summer spikes in revenue.
According to Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority data, there were 73 dispensaries in Norman in April, but that number dropped to 58 by September. The number of dispensaries slightly increased by the end of the year to 63.
In August, local dispensaries made $1.5 million less in revenue compared to July, as the remaining months never reached the July spike in revenue, according to OTC data. Despite the decline, local dispensaries’ output remained fairly strong to end the year; they reported $2.96 million in revenue in December compared to $1.9 million in Dec. 2019.
Norman dispensaries’ monthly revenue mostly mirrored the statewide output in 2020.
According to OTC data, statewide dispensaries reported more than $831 million in total revenue in 2020, a massive increase compared to the $345 million dispensaries reported in 2019. Dispensaries also remitted $71.6 million in state and local taxes, an increase of $41 million over 2019.
Norman dispensaries made up 4% of the state’s total marijuana revenue in 2020.
The number of Oklahoma residents with an active marijuana license also increased significantly in 2020. According to OMMA data, there were 365,000 patient licenses in December, up from 220,000 in January 2020.
OMMA’s patient license data only includes the statewide total, and does not include a breakdown by city.
Impact on Norman dispensaries
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, some local dispensary owners wondered if it would impact the industry.
Gov. Kevin Stitt and Norman Mayor Breea Clark both declared dispensaries an essential business early in the pandemic, allowing dispensaries to remain open with safety protocols in place. As a result, some dispensaries saw increases in revenue from May through July.
Clifton Dewers, assistant manager at Norman’s Herbal House, said sales increased as shelter-in-place orders were being issued.
“I remember when COVID-19 first broke out, I remember there being a bunch of people coming and buying in bulk,” Dewers said. “When everybody was in panic mode, everybody started going out there and spending a bunch of their money.”
Patricia Beedle, budtender at Chronic Solutions, said there was another noticeable spike in revenue after the first round of stimulus money was released in May.
“As a budtender, I saw a lot of people come in and talk about their stimulus money,” Beedle said. “A lot of people were working from home, so there wasn’t much else to do for some people.”
Dewers said by the end of the year, Herbal House didn’t see a significant increase in revenue compared to 2019, but they held steady when businesses in other industries struggled.
“As far as 2020 went, I definitely don’t think dispensaries were affected as much as some other businesses, but we took [a little bit] of a hit,” Dewers said. “We did fine, but [considering] COVID and [the original 2020 projections], the industry still did really well. The numbers speak for themselves in terms of the tax money collected from dispensaries around Oklahoma in general.”
Lawrence Cagigal, Southwest territory sales manager for GreenGrowth CPAs in Oklahoma City, said he exercised caution when sales began booming last summer, but was still surprised at how long sales remained strong.
“The bubble lasted longer than we thought as far COVID and people staying at home,” Cagigal said. “Gummies went through the roof because it’s a discreet way to get your medication when you’re staying at home with your family and kids. But that has started to come down and normalize.”
However, despite the record-high revenue, Cagigal said many dispensaries face challenges in remaining open.
“People assume that everybody in this industry is making money hand over fist. There’s very, very few people that are actually putting money into their pockets,” Cagigal said. “Everyone that is doing well is investing it back into their business, and the majority of people are just trying to stay open… We only have 3.9 million people. There’s just not enough money to go around even though 10% of our population has their card.”
Beedle said she noticed when the number of dispensaries in Norman began declining. There were seven dispensaries within a two-mile radius of Chronic Solutions early last year and half of them have closed, she said.
“I can’t speak for a lot of dispensaries, but here we’re still steady,” Beedle said. “A lot of it has to do with overcharging… Dispensaries having to pay huge taxes probably killed them as well, so some places probably overcharged to try to compensate for the taxes.
“You can’t have a bunch of the same things in one location because some of them are going to go away. This is the bible belt — there are liquor stores, churches and dispensaries on nearly every corner.”
Medical marijuana is still a fairly new industry in Oklahoma, and some experts predict continued growth.
Cagigal said as more residents continue to apply for their medical card, revenue will likely continue to increase. However, it’s unlikely there will be as many dispensaries as there are now.
“The total overall spend will still increase — that pie will be spread over less people in the future,” Cagigal said. “There will be top-line growth in the industry, but less people participating in it, and the pool of people splitting that pie will be less. There will be a natural equilibrium.”
Terri Watkins, OMMA communications director, said they are working on new tracking and quality assurance programs to increase the safety of marijuana products sold to patients. With the OMMA issuing recalls on a few products at the end of last year, Watkins said the focus is making sure products are as safe as possible.
Dewers said he’s optimistic about the industry in 2021, but hopes legislation efforts will be made to help the industry continue to grow.
“It’s going to depend on a lot of political and pandemic things,” Dewers said. “We’re going to have to see how legislation goes to see if we can make delivery services possible. Curbside delivery has been a big thing, but there’s a lot of legal gray-area things that prevent patients from getting their medication as easy as possible… I’d like to see some changes in the industry just for the greater good of dispensaries because there’s a lot of things we can improve on.”