Monthly lab-testing numbers for California’s legal cannabis products show signs of bouncing back, after lulls midyear. Even in late November, indicators pointed to a cultivating season that will continue well into the year’s end.
News of this rise in legal cannabis product quantities moving through the state’s supply chain has been met with spliff, or rather split, industry opinions. That’s largely because California’s unsteady marijuana market is still trying to find its stride.
Some insiders see the rise as a positive sign, showing that California’s licensed marijuana operations are enjoying an uptick. Meanwhile, others see the latest statistics as further evidence of a black market that continues to outpace the regulated industry.
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The Numbers at a Glance
In October last year, the Bureau for Cannabis Control (BCC) started sharing regular testing outcomes for legal cannabis products. Here is a breakout of the total number of cannabis batches tested over recent months, which gives a sense of legal cannabis quantities flowing out into the supply chain:
- October 2018 – 3,400
- April 2019 – 5,100
- June 2019 – 4,100
- November 2019 – 6,139
The slip June in testing numbers caused concern for some industry insiders, who worried the slow up suggested a possible decline in the availability of legal supply. While others saw the dip as a regular seasonality drop off. And as relief to many, more recent numbers seem to support the latter.
Next lab tests showed a pickup in August, and November saw the highest volume of legally tested cannabis product batches yet. So much so, June to November, saw an almost a 50 percent increase.
Outdoor Harvest Season
The outdoor harvest season in Northern California usually runs from September through til the beginning of November. Though growers this year tell labs it looks like testing will continue to hold strong as growing looks set to continue right through til the year’s end.
Swetha Kaul, the chief scientific officer at Cannalysis, a Santa Ana based testing lab, says she has seen a “steady increase” of batches for testing come through her lab, but understands the pickup usually stems from a number of factors.
As some see increased testing batch numbers as an increase in legal cannabis hitting the supply chain, others note it’s difficult to determine quantities just by analyzing the BCC reports alone. That’s because test batch sizes vary greatly – anywhere from a few pounds all the way up to 50 pounds per batch – so there’s no real way to measure volume definitively.
Liz Connors, director of analysis at Seattle-based Headset, says the licensed marijuana market in California is showing positive growth signs overall. And added that the BCC data reflects the slow and steady type market gains the majority of those watching would hope for.
The other important takeaway is that while the number of batches tested indicates a growing legal market, those same numbers are also cause for concern, when considering that the illicit market still occupies some 70 percent of California’s cannabis sales.
One thing we can expect to see is a rush in the wholesale market, as businesses aim to get their cannabis products well stocked up before the new growers’ and retailers’ tax increases kick in on January 1. And while growing lab-testing batch numbers are considered a victory, California’s cannabis market continues to need improvement before we can consider it to be booming.
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The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients and those facing criminal marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Bureau for Cannabis Control