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Exploring Border Town Per-Capita Cannabis Sales September 16, 2021
Exploring Border Town Per-Capita Cannabis Sales

While more Americans have access to the legal cannabis industry now than ever before, residents of Idaho and Nebraska are still stuck in full prohibition. Per-capita cannabis sales data from border towns in Washington and Colorado both show that Americans are willing to drive long distances for legal marijuana, and state and local governments are missing out on significant tax revenue.

Prohibition at the state level is the most common barrier to access; however, even within recreational states, there are many municipalities and even entire counties that have chosen to maintain the prohibition of cannabis. Would-be cannabis customers are not easily deterred by a lack of local access and often travel across city, county, and state borders to make purchases elsewhere. This trend should be a huge red flag to lawmakers who continue to support prohibition. The laws are not preventing consumers from purchasing cannabis, only redirecting the valuable tax revenue to the bordering state.

Additionally, cross-border shoppers who have traveled long distances to make their purchases are more motivated to engage in “looping” purchase behaviors, in which customers buy more than the legal limit by visiting a shop more than once in a specified time period. This practice puts both customers and local businesses at risk.

Border counties with higher-than-average sales

To observe this consumer trend in action, let’s examine a few counties located on the borders of Washington and Colorado. These counties have a much higher-than-average amount of per-capita cannabis sales than other counties in the state. Per-capita sales is an important metric for these analyses, because it allows us to scale against the local population of each subject county.

Washington border counties

Let’s start with Washington state. In the map below, we’ve labeled three counties with the highest rates of per-capita sales over the past year. All three counties (Asotin, Spokane, and Whitman) share a border with Idaho, one of only two remaining U.S. states enforcing full prohibition. Asotin County (labeled “1” in the map below) has a higher per-capita spend on cannabis than any other county in Washington. The per-capita spend in this rural county that borders both Idaho and Oregon is more than three times higher than the per-capita cannabis spend of the average Washingtonian.

Illustration: Headset

Colorado border counties

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