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Legal cannabis vaporizer sales in five major U.S. states fell for the second straight month in October, and dropped below year-ago levels for the first time as consumers responded the so-called vape crisis, BDS Analytics data show.

Lower cannabis vape sales in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada took place the same month the product category was legalized in Canada, and as producers and retailers prepared to launch similar items that are expected to increase revenues and profit margins in the young industry that is struggling with the smaller-than-expected number of retail stores that have been granted permits.

Cannabis vape sales in the five states – regions that when combined account for more than 50 per cent of legal U.S. pot sales – fell to US$119.5-million in October. This is down from US$126.2-million and US$120.2-million in October 2018, BDS data show.

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In the United States, 50 people have died and more than 2,500 have fallen sick from a vape-related illness known as EVALI. Health Canada has warned people who vape to monitor themselves for symptoms of pulmonary illness.

Quebec and Newfoundland have banned cannabis vapes, and Alberta said last week it will not permit them to be sold for now, even as related illnesses are believed to be largely the result of illicit products in the United States.

Sales of other cannabis product categories that just started reaching Canadian retail shelves, also dropped in the five states. Ingestibles fell slightly to US$92.5-million in October versus US$92.8-million in September, but remained above October 2018 sales at US$81.2-million. Topical sales fell to US$8.6-million in October from US$9.4-million in September, and came in just below October 2018 sales at US$8.7-million.

Meanwhile flower sales rose to US$252.2-million in October, up from US$247.1-million in September and US$203-million in October 2018, pointing to strength in the industry’s most traditional and largest segment.

Overall, legal cannabis sales in the five states reached US$584-million in October, up 16 per cent from a year ago but down 0.1 per cent from the prior month. While it is typical for cannabis sales to drop in the autumn after stronger summer sales, the reduction was smaller than the year prior when October 2018 sales were down 1 per cent from the prior month.

Prices

BDS Analytics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) for October reached 100.68, a 2 per cent drop from September. Retail cannabis prices in the five states increased less than 1 percent in October, but average prices fell by nearly 3 per cent year-to-date.

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Ingestibles, pre-rolls, and topicals were the exception with index scores indicating higher average retail prices compared with January 2018. The index scores for flower, vapes, and concentrates were negative, though average retail prices were “stable” in October compared with September, BDS said.

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