PORTLAND, Ore. — Baker County was Oregon’s pot-purchasing leader in 2019 on a per capita basis as sales in the state continued to climb, but a neighboring county appears set to take the top spot in 2020.
Sales in Baker County totaled more than $30.1 million in 2019. With a population of 16,820, that worked out to $1,794 per resident, according to a Business Journal analysis based on data from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
But it’s not like the whole county was perpetually baked.
SLIDESHOW: Oregon cannabis sales by county
The sales were overwhelmingly to Idahoans who flocked to tiny Huntington, 30 miles from the state line and for a long time the go-to spot for residents of the Boise area to buy legally (even if taking the goods home was illegal).
But that all changed last year when recreational pot came to Ontario, in Malheur County, right on the state line.
The first Ontario shop opened in July, and by the end of the year there were three. Sales totaled more than $20.2 million in 2019, including $14.1 million in the last three months of the year.
Meanwhile, sales in Huntington, while still substantial, declined dramatically after Ontario got into the game — from $8.6 million in the final three months of 2018 to $2.7 million in the same three months in 2019.
If the trends hold, Malheur County could check in with around $1,750 in per capita sales in 2020, compared to a prospective $700 in Baker County.
One thing is certain: Ontario, with a population around 11,000, is making out very well. It figures to bring in well over $1 million annually from a 3 percent local cannabis sales tax. That's in a city with a general fund around $10 million. And it will reap additional revenues through distributions from the state’s 17 percent tax, as well.
The Portland Business Journal is a KGW News partner.