Kind Leaf in Nov 2019 in Pendleton.jpg

Bud tender Rae Weese weighs some cannabis in November 2019 at Kind Leaf in Pendleton. Oregon recreational-cannabis sales jumped from $795 million in 2019 to more than $1 billion in 2020.

SALEM — Oregon recreational-cannabis sales surged in 2020, peaking during a difficult summer of protests and lockdowns.

The result was a record year of business for the state’s marijuana purveyors, based on data from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversees marijuana sales. Total marijuana sales in Oregon jumped from $795 million in 2019 to more than $1 billion — $1,110,520,723 — for the year that just ended.

Oregonians suddenly began buying a lot more recreational cannabis last March, the month that Gov. Kate Brown instituted a stay-at-home order and other restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the state. Sales numbers for marijuana spiked about 20% in March. They kept climbing in the months that followed.

“People are going for more quantity over quality,” Peak Extracts CEO Katie Stem told The Oregonian/OregonLive last fall.

In May, Oregon marijuana sales topped $100 million in a single month for the first time ever. Sales then surpassed $100 million in each of the three months that followed as well, with a high of more than $106 million in July.

In 2014, Oregon voters approved Measure 91, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Regulated sales began the following year.

State tax revenue from marijuana sales in 2020 likely will exceed $150 million. Much of that will go toward substance-abuse screening and programs to address addiction. A new law, Measure 110, directs the state to use a significant portion of marijuana tax revenue on those programs. The law decriminalizes possession of small amounts of street drugs.

While marijuana sales peaked over the summer last year, the fall and early winter months indicate pot buying may have found a new, elevated norm in Oregon. Recreational-marijuana sales in December 2019 were just under $69 million, for example. In December 2020, the monthly total was nearly $96 million — about a 40% year-over-year increase.

Not surprisingly, Multnomah County, the state’s most populous, rang up the most sales by far for the year — more than $30 million in July alone. Washington, Lane and Malheur counties followed.

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