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Holidays abuzz at pot shops in Vancouver

Vancouver cannabis dealers say their products increasingly popular gifts

By , Columbian business reporter
4 Photos
Charlie Gregory, budtender and cashier, helps Briana Reed of Vancouver finish her purchase at Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver on Dec. 12.
Charlie Gregory, budtender and cashier, helps Briana Reed of Vancouver finish her purchase at Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver on Dec. 12. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The holiday season and the lead-up to Christmas make up the biggest time of year for sales and customer traffic for a lot of retailers, including those in Clark County. But what about one of the state’s newest industries — marijuana? What do the holidays look like for Clark County cannabis retailers?

As it turns out, the holiday season tends to be a pretty big deal for cannabis retailers too. It isn’t the peak sales season — that would be from April 20 to the end of the summer — but Clark County cannabis dispensaries see definite seasonal shifts.

Local industry workers and owners said they’ve also observed an uptick in the number of people buying cannabis products as gifts, which they attribute to a decreasing public stigma toward marijuana use.

“Edibles are the most popular gift, especially if people don’t know what they’re doing,” said Kayla Caro, a budtender at High End Marketplace. “That’s usually a safe way to go.”

The more rigidly defined doses and portions on edible products tend to appeal to customers who might be buying cannabis gifts for first-time users, she said. Caro said she’s also seen an increase in demand for CBD-based painkiller creams, often for use as small gifts or stocking stuffers.

Nearby at Main Street Marijuana, co-owner Adam Hamide also described a winter seasonal trend toward more edible purchases, particularly solid edibles like chocolate as opposed to other cannabis-infused products like sodas.

The concept of marijuana products as gifts has really only taken off in the past couple years, Hamide said, after the passage of a 2017 Washington law that allowed adults 21 and older to share marijuana in limited amounts — in essence, allowing private marijuana gifting.

The demand for edibles comes at a fortuitous time this year, Hamide said. An early freeze resulted in a lot of marijuana crops that were too damaged for the flower portion to be sold for smoking, but the plants could still be processed to make the oils used in edible products.

Manufacturers have also begun to dabble in holiday packaging and gift pack products, Hamide said, although both manufacturers and retailers want to be careful to avoid having any holiday-branded supplies left on the store shelves at the end of the season.

That can sometimes include holiday flavors like pumpkin spice and peppermint. Jayson Harman, marketing director at New Vansterdam, said he’s also seen products such as eggnog and candy cane edibles, and even products with packaging that allows them to be hung as Christmas tree ornaments.

“People definitely get into it, just like Starbucks,” Hamide said.

The retailers get into the spirit too. Main Street sets up indoor lights and snowflake decorations in its display cases. New Vansterdam’s holiday swag includes two trees and Christmas music, and Caro said High End was similarly decked out for Christmas.

“We go pretty hard on Halloween and Christmas,” Harman said. “We deck our whole store out.”

Clark County retailers did seem to differ in their assessments of how the season impacts customer traffic. Caro described High End’s December traffic as a lot of ebbs and flows, but on average about the same. Hamide said Main Street Marijuana tends to see a pattern typical for retailers in any industry: A busy December followed by a January slump.

Notably, Hamide said Christmas Day tends to be as busy as any other. Customers seem eager to take a break on Christmas morning, so Main Street stays open.

“You would think that Christmas would be dead, but it tends to be a normal sales day for us,” he said.

There’s also some seasonal variation in customer traffic. Harman said New Vansterdam tends to see more out-of-town visitors during the winter months — often people from states without legal marijuana who are curious to see a cannabis shop, sometimes accompanied by local family eager to show them around.

“Starting since Thanksgiving, we have people from out of town,” Harman said.