Christmas is already a holiday that encourages over-indulgence, so why not throw a few pot edibles under the tree?

Though the practice is unlikely to come anywhere close to April 20 – better known as 4/20, a day pot users celebrate – consumers do buy more pot products as the season approaches, figures show.

Cannabis sales grew 15 percent in the lead-up to Christmas 2018 compared with the week before, according to U.S. data from cannabis analytics firm Headset. The increase was most dramatic in edibles, where all segments saw sales grow by more than 30 percent. Chocolate sales increased 41 percent, while cookie sales were up about 50 percent.

It’s “a lot of the same sweet treats we’re used to during the holidays,” Headset said in a December report. “Santa has probably gotten some very special cookies for his troubles these past few years.”

Cannabis beverages also saw a sales increase on par with that in edibles, possibly because people are “replacing their nog with five-milligram sodas,” or it could be evidence that “non-drinking cannabis consumers are gravitating towards beverages in situations that involve a lot of social pressure to drink alcohol,” Headset said.

Buying patterns indicate that Christmas shoppers aren’t buying cannabis gifts for loved ones, but rather for themselves, Headset said.

“The Christmas season is still a bit of an enigma for the cannabis industry, it seems,” the report said. “While there is evidence that cannabis products are being given as gifts, there isn’t quite enough to say it’s a mainstream Christmas gift yet.”

However, holiday marketing shouldn’t be overlooked as cannabis becomes more mainstream. “It’s conceivable that a top-shelf vape cartridge could become a gift item in the same way a bottle of scotch is,” Headset said.

Canadians will likely have to wait until next year to get in the pot Christmas spirit as sales of edibles, vapes and beverages are only getting off the ground slowly since they became legal on Dec. 16.

We’re just days away from 2020, when a number of potential catalysts will hit the industry. Here’s what to watch in the opening days of the new year:

Illinois will legalize recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, becoming the 11th state to do so. Initial sales will come from the 34 existing medical dispensaries with an additional 75 licenses expected to be issued by May 1. Canaccord Genuity analyst Bobby Burleson expects Illinois’ legal market to generate sales of $488 million in 2020, growing to more than $1.5 billion by 2024.

California is set to raise excise and cultivation taxes on Jan. 1, a move that critics say will keep consumers’ money in the still-robust illicit market. The Legislative Analyst’s Office published a report last week recommending that legislators eliminate the current structure and switch to tax based on potency or value.

In Canada, sales of newly legal product formats including vapes, edibles and beverages will ramp up in January. However, Eight Capital analyst Graeme Kreindler doesn’t expect to see “meaningful supply of derivative products until the summer of 2020 at the earliest.”


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