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Munchies

This Washington County Is Spending More Money on Weed than on Basic Groceries

Spokane County, Washington is buying a lot of weed. So much so that the sale of marijuana in that county is outpacing the sale of dietary staples that are considered to be the very staff of life: bread and milk.

by Alex Swerdloff
Apr 16 2016, 8:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Dank Depot

Spokane County, Washington—the fourth-most populated county in Washington State, with a population of 471,221 according to the 2010 census—is buying a lot of weed. So much so that the sale of marijuana in that county is outpacing the sale of dietary staples that are considered to be the very staff of life: bread and milk. And wine, too!

In 2012, the State of Washington passed a law that made the possession of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. Since 2014, state residents have been able to buy the stuff in retail outlets. So, yes, this data derives from the first full year of weed sales in the state. According to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (if only every state had a Liquor and Cannabis Board), $43 million in weed was sold in Spokane County alone last year—an average of $225.64 in purchases per household. Retail beer sales barely eked out a win with $232.70 per Spokane County household, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey administered by the Census Bureau.

But Brian Smith of the Liquor and Cannabis Board told The Seattle Times that the calculated marijuana average-per-household disregards recent findings that 20 percent of people are responsible for 80 percent of the ingestion of weed. This 80/20 rule would suggest that in some households, weed purchases outpace spending on a lot of other things—presumably A LOT of other things. Meanwhile, in 80 percent of households, they are probably still eating more bread and drinking more milk than they are vaping mad trees.

How's the rest of the state doing, you ask? Well, the Liquor and Cannabis Board says statewide marijuana sales are $2.8 million a day. Smith remarks, "That seems pretty robust."

Of course, comparing sales of weed to sales of groceries like milk is a bit of an apples-and-oranges game. Grant Forsyth, an economist, points out that the federal government still classifies marijuana as a controlled substance, a fact that stymies the study of pot purchases nationwide. "We don't have a lot of consumption data, so it's hard to see how the market is going to evolve," Forsyth said.

In any event, we're pretty sure that the people of Spokane County are glad that their state legalized marijuana—they certainly are taking advantage of the 17 state-licensed pot shops in the area. We're also now increasingly certain that Bob Dylan's 1966 song "Rainy Day Woman #13 & 35" was a prescient prediction about the people of this misty Pacific Northwest county.