The Idaho border town of Ontario, Oregon (pop. ~11,000) has now exceeded $100 million in annual marijuana sales for the first time.
According to county sales data from the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission, marijuana shops in Malheur County sold $8.9 million in marijuana products in November, bringing the annual total for 2021 to just over $102 million, with sales figures for December yet to be tallied.
Following a successful statewide marijuana legalization initiative in 2014, Oregon legislators passed a special law for the state’s conservative eastern counties. That law banned all marijuana sales unless a city or county passed an ordinance to allow sales. In 2018, voters in Malheur County’s largest city of Ontario voted to allow sales.
Ontario remains the only city in the county to allow sales, so all sales figures for Malheur County are actually sales from this one Idaho border town. Since the first dispensary began sales in July 2019, Ontario has sold over $214 million in marijuana products.
November marks the third month in a row that Malheur County has placed second in the state after Multnomah County is total marijuana sales. That’s tiny Ontario leading the entire state in sales with the exception of the state’s most urban county, home to Portland.
Of course, on a per capita basis, Malheur County (pop. ~30,500) has been the state’s monthly sales leader by far for over two years running.
It’s no secret that Ontario’s marijuana market consists mostly of the 750,000-population Treasure Valley of Idaho. The state’s three cities over 100,000 population—Boise (235,684), Meridian (117,635), and Nampa (100,200)—are all within an hour’s drive of the border.
In October, a town on Idaho’s southern border, Jackpot, Nevada, opened its first marijuana dispensary. That places legal marijuana sales within an hour’s drive for the 100,000 residents of Idaho’s Twin Falls Metro Area.
It’s too soon to determine whether Jackpot has affected Ontario’s sales. November’s $8.9 million is below the average of $9.3 million per month for the rest of 2021. However, the onset of winter and the continuing pandemic could explain the drop; a similar monthly decline of about $600,000 occurred in November of 2020.
All this marijuana being legally sold to Idahoans represents a huge loss of tax revenue for the state. The city of Ontario reaps a 3 percent tax on all marijuana sales, or roughly $270,000 per month (Idaho’s 6 percent sales tax alone would generate twice that). The state of Oregon takes another 17 percent, or just over $1.5 million per month.