Marijuana math: Washington estimates pot consumption

SEATTLE — The state of Washington is counting on the average marijuana user to smoke a joint every three days.

Under the state's consumption estimate for a legal pot market, the math breaks down to 80 million joints, or the equivalent in pot, smoked by roughly 650,000 adults every year. That's 123 joints per user annually.

The state's consumption estimate is important because it drives licensing for pot production, including the number of growers and the size of their operations. Underestimating statewide consumption could hand customers to illicit dealers, according to state officials. Overestimating could lead to surplus weed being diverted to other states.

But the state recognizes that the joint is losing popularity, particularly with younger stoners. A panel discussion at the Drug Policy Alliance's upcoming biennial conference is even titled: "Is the joint obsolete?"

Edibles, topicals and concentrates, such as hash oil, have become so popular that the state figures the market for those products will be as large as the more traditional buds and flowers combusted in joints and pipes.

When the state-regulated system starts selling pot next year, consumers are expected to annually use 40 metric tons of buds and flowers, and another 40 metric tons of the so-called extracts: pot-infused edibles, liquids and topicals, plus hash oil in various forms called wax, shatter and budder.

Working from the state's own announcement of its revised rules, media — including The Seattle Times — had previously reported the state's consumption estimate was a total of 40 metric tons. But The Stranger's Ben Livingston recently reported that those 40 tons were only half the picture.

It's the half that deals with "usable marijuana," which the state law defines as buds and flowers, explained Randy Simmons, the state's marijuana project director.

According to federal government surveys, 13.4 percent of Washington state's population used pot in the previous year.

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