Vaping crisis takes toll on September cannabis sales

Stocks quotes in this article: KSHB

The vaping crisis is taking its toll on cannabis vape sales, but overall cannabis sales continue to grow. Still, with over a thousand patients and multiple deaths as reported by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), cannabis consumers have become very cautious as to the products they purchase.

Canaccord Genuity released a report on September vape sales using point-of-sale data from BDS Analytics that included Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon. Overall cannabis sales in September saw numbers for the industry rise in every state, with Arizona rising the most, by 35%, but California sales only increasing 8%.

Vapes had been the most promising form factor for cannabis. It was convenient and discreet. It didn’t produce the smell of smoking flower or require matches, pipes or rolling papers. Light up cannabis flower and it can often keep burning, but a vape is only active when the consumer is using it.

Vape pens allowed consumers to take a puff and put it away. As more deaths were reported, though, consumer became understandably wary of vape pens. That caution is being demonstrated in reduced sales.

Vapes Losing Market Share in September

According to the report, vape sales declined 23% for Oregon, Nevada and Colorado from August to September. Arizona sales dropped 15% and California sales decreased 20% month over month.

Year-over-year sales grew but the sales growth definitely hit the brakes. For example, overall vape sales rose 29% in August and 36% in July year over year, but in September the growth slowed to 7%. Consumers switched to other cannabis forms such as the old reliable flower, pre-rolls and beverages.

Year over year in September, pre-roll sales gained by 36%, beverage sales grew 20% and flower sales increased 18%.

On the earnings call with cannabis packaging company KushCo Holdings Inc. (KSHB) CEO Nick Kovacevich said, “Right now people aren’t wanting to load up on this product. They’re still moving through volumes, but their ordering habits have changed. So they’re ordering less at a time and they’re ordering more frequently until they get clarity around how this is going to impact the business long term.” He believes that ultimately it will drive customers out of the black market and into the regulated market, which will be more positive for both the manufacturers and consumers.

Kovacevich added, “We also expect operators that operate in the legal channels to take a closer look at their products and their supply chain and what we call a flight to premium mentality. It’s going to lead a lot of the customers that we service to want to upgrade things like their vape hardware or their solvents to make sure that they have everything that’s in their power to deliver a safe and trusted product to their consumer base.”

California Concerns

The report noted that vape sales dropped by 20% in the state in September, a primary reason why overall sales slowed. Year-over-year cannabis sales only increased 8%, but they declined 9% from August to September. Still, vape pens continue to be desirable and are the second biggest category behind flower. Flower had a 37% market share in September 2018, but that dropped to a 36% share in the state, while vape pens dropped from 28% last September to 27% this September.

Pre-rolled joints seemed to be the beneficiary of this caution. That market share rose from 8% in September 2018 to 11% in September 2019. Other form factors remained the same.

Arizona Is Popping

Arizona sales had the largest year-over-year growth at 35% and the smallest drop from August to September at 3%. It may be a cyclical pattern as sales also fell sequentially in 2018 between August and September. However, year over year, flower sales gained from a 43% market share to 49%, while vapes fell from a 26% market share in 2018 to 23% in 2019.

Repeated Pattern

The pattern repeated itself in Nevada as well. Flower accounted for 39% of the market sales in September 2018, but jumped to 44% in September 2019. Vapes fell from 20% to 18% for the same time period. In Oregon, the same story played out. Flower market share increased from 40% in 2018 to 44% in 2019, while vape sales saw the market share drop from 20% to 18%. Only Colorado remained flat.

Vape Rebound Expected In Second Half

Kovacevich said that the vape crisis was likely to continue to cause pressure. “There’s going to be some slowness for vape, especially in Q1, likely in Q2. But we do expect that to rebound in a big way on the back half of the year barring any significant regulatory changes. We also think that long term, this vape crisis, it’s actually a positive for legal compliant operators. The biggest challenge to the customers that we service on the legal side is losing business to the black market. It’s hard to convince somebody to spend more of their product just because it’s the right thing to do.”

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