Manufacturers of marijuana infused chocolate bars and gummy bears are ramping up production after an encouraging start to sales for recreational use.
The Oregon Legislative Revenue office expects a 10 to 15 percent increase in collected taxes for June recreational sales, following the rollout of edibles to recreational markets on June 2.
The trend is expected to continue for at least the next few months. The estimate is based on preliminary reports from the industry, and trends seen in Washington and Colorado, following their influx of cannabis-infused products.
"It is a new range of products, a new market, and not necessarily the same market that marijuana leaves have been in for a long time," said Mazen Malik, the senior economist at the Oregon Legislative Revenue Office. "Sales should be toward the higher end (of a 10 to 15 percent boost) in the beginning of the month, and then come down. People want to see how this works."
Oregon recreational pot taxes in 2016 had reached $14.9 million total by May 30, according to the Oregon Department of Revenue. The Legislative Revenue Office anticipates gross tax revenue should average $3.7 million per month.
Salem dispensaries offering new array of products
In Salem, most dispensaries have been expanding to include cannabis-infused products like ice cream, candy and lotions, many of them from manufacturers also based in Oregon.
Some of the most popular edibles come from Oregon companies Baked by Coco, Wild West Growers, Jolly Greens, Genesis Pharms, Gaia Bounty Inc., and Drip Ice Cream, according to the edible manufacturers' lists of distribution locations.
The number and variety of products has also grown since sales were expanded from a medical marijuana-only market, according to local distributors and dispensaries. Some of the more common cannabis-infused products range from hard candy, ice cream and chocolates to lotions, cooking oil and ointments.
"Any time you open up a new market, it's a good thing in some ways," said Mitchell Warnock, the operations manager at the dispensary Green-Way Medicinal in Salem. Warnock said he has seen medical marijuana card registrations drop, as edible products are now available for recreational use.
The dispensary is adding recreational edibles — like gummies, hard candy and taffy, among other products. They are taking advantage of the interest on all four cylinders. Their medicinal side, which garners around 55 to 60 patients a day, is offering edibles with higher THC levels. Meanwhile, their productions company, Nature Organics, is producing lotions and creams for medicinal and recreational use.
The dispensary, which averages $20,000 a month in state taxes, according to Warnock, is expecting a 15 to 20 percent increase in taxes for June.
Cherry City Compassion in Salem has also been witnessing a flurry of interest in edibles, according to managers. Joining the dispensary are Ancient Remedies, 2nd Step Dispensary, 7 Leaf Collective, and Herbal Grasslands, all of which are Salem dispensaries with new and improved marijuana edibles products lists.
According to the Oregon Health Authority online directory, there are 21 registered marijuana dispensaries in Salem, 19 of which are participating in early recreational sales.
Salem-based edibles manufacturer offering more products -- in smaller doses
Oregon's pot industry has more limitations for the amount of THC in recreational edibles than in medicinal edibles.
In the early recreational sales program, the Oregon Health Authority imposed several limitations on pot products: retail customers can buy no more than one low-dose edible with at most 15 milligrams of THC per day, non-psychoactive topicals can contain no more than 6 percent THC, and customers can buy no more than one prefilled extract with at most 1,000 milligrams of THC per day.
Meanwhile, the medical marijuana dispensary program allows 50 milligrams of THC per container of edibles and up to 250 milligrams per cannabinoid concentrate or extract, among other rules.
"We are adding to our product line, for both medical and our recreational," said Rick McDonough at Gaia Bounty Inc., an Oregon edibles manufacturer with a factory in Salem. Gaia Bounty Inc., specializes in gourmet chocolate bars, made with concentrated cannabis oils.
Those oils are coming in much smaller doses per bar on the recreational side, McDonough said.
"In medical the rules weren't as strict as the limit for milligrams. We have one bar, with 10 sections at about 100 milligrams (THC). Recreational is a lot less," McDonough said
Despite the smaller doses in recreational products, Malik said economists expect the edibles market to continue to increase marijuana sales in Oregon, compared to sales in the pre-legalization "black market" industry.
"The illegal and illicit market didn't offer too many of these products," Malik said. "In the past, you didn't have candy-infused products being sold by the guy around the corner, with gummy bears in his pocket."