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Vancouver pot shops report traffic dips after Oregon sales launch

By Sue Vorenberg
Cannabis Daily Record

Pot shops in Vancouver, Washington, reported weekend traffic dips of 10 to 20 percent after the launch of Oregon’s early start recreational cannabis sales on Oct. 1, 2015.

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Stores in the city, including two of the three largest pot shops in Washington, have been heavily dependent on Portland consumers, who frequently crossed the border to Washington while recreational pot remained illegal in Oregon.

At some Vancouver stores, Portland traffic made up about 50 percent of their business. So traffic dips of 10 to 20 percent aren’t as bad as they could have been.

Main Street Marijuana, the largest retail store in Washington, dropped its sales prices by 25 percent a few days prior to Oct. 1 in hopes of luring Portlanders over the border.

Ramsey Hamide, the owner, said that seems to have helped stave off a larger traffic dip – but it is still hurting the company’s bottom line.

“That combination (price drops and a 10 to 20 percent decline in foot traffic) is having about a 40 percent impact on revenue,” Hamide said. “I’d project we’ll have about $1.5 million in sales this month (October) before we get $100 ounces on our shelves and shake everything up again.”

Jim Mullen, Chief Operating Officer of The Herbery, which has two Vancouver locations, said that traffic at the shop’s main store was down about 12 percent on Friday, while its smaller shop saw almost no drop in traffic at all.

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Through the weekend, traffic dipped by about 18 percent at the main store and by less than 10 percent at its secondary location, Mullen added.

Prices at Vancouver stores (which include tax in the per gram cost) have generally been in the $10-$16 a gram range. Portland prices (at medical dispensaries through the early start program), have been in the $8 to $15 range, without taxes.

“We are competitive with that, for sure,” Mullen said. “And when they have to add taxes to that mix we may well end up with prices that are less expensive than Portland’s.”

Oregonians don’t have to pay tax on recreational cannabis until the start of 2016. Also, as part of early start, they can only buy marijuana plants, buds or other material. Oregonians can’t buy edibles, vapes, concentrates or other items until the full recreational system is set up in Oregon in late 2016.

Several Vancouver and Clark County shops have beefed up their vape, edible and concentrate product lines in hopes of continuing to lure Portlanders across the border.

Many are also hoping that adding medical designations and medical products to their offerings will offset the traffic losses to Portland.

The Cannabis Country Store in Battle Ground is one of those. Loren Carlson, the owner, said his store saw about a 15 percent drop in traffic on Friday and Saturday.

“Friday and Saturday weren’t too bad, but Sunday was a little soft,” Carlson said. “We’re ready to start serving medical marijuana patients (when the state rolls out its new medical marijuana dispensary licensing program). And we hope that will help.”

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Morgan Hutchinson, co-owner of High End Market Place, said traffic to her shop was a bit slow on Oct. 1, but was back to normal on Friday, Oct. 2.

“We’re just trucking along, selling great weed to cool people,” Hutchinson said.

The market is also likely to see some chaos as the fall cannabis harvest comes in – with a large amount of inexpensive outdoor-grown marijuana flooding into stores in both states. That yearly occurrence usually starts in mid- to late-October.

“We’ll see where everything is in a month,” Mullen said.

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