Colorado cannabis retailers have sold more than $10 billion worth of legal pot since recreational marijuana became legal in the state in 2014, with more than $2 billion of that total coming in 2020 alone. Cannabis sales figures for 2020, a year when many business sectors suffered severe negative impacts from the coronavirus pandemic, were released by the Colorado Department of Revenue on Tuesday.
While many bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, and other businesses were forced to close or curtail operations during the outbreak, Colorado designated cannabis retailers and producers as essential businesses in March of last year. Cannabis sales totaled $2.19 billion in the state in 2020, up from $1.75 billion the year before.
“It’s good that in this really challenging year at least some of our industries are doing well,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said last week in an interview with the Denver Post. “It also shows that Colorado’s marijuana industry continues to lead the nation in excellence and innovation with additional measures like delivery.”
Colorado’s cannabis sales for 2020 bring the total since the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014 to $9.98 billion. With the sales from January and thus far in February added, the total has likely now surpassed more than $10 billion.
“Ten billion is incredible and unsurprising at the same time,” said Truman Bradley, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a Colorado cannabis trade association. “The industry has partnered with regulators to do things the right way in Colorado. This state continues to be a leader in regulated cannabis.”
More Than $1.5 Billion In Revenue For The State
Since 2014, taxes and fees collected on marijuana sales in Colorado have totaled about $1.63 billion, according to state figures. Marijuana retailers collect 2.9% in sales tax on cannabis sales, plus a separate marijuana sales tax of 15%. An excise tax of 15% is also added to wholesale sales and transfers of regulated cannabis.
Wanda James, the co-owner of Simply Pure dispensary in Denver, said that while other forms of entertainment and recreation were forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the designation of cannabis businesses as essential provided an alternative for many Coloradans.
“What a grand thing to have happened,” James said. “I’m glad in a state like Colorado people could legally choose a plant to help them with their anxieties or boredom or creative blocks. I’m glad they had a choice besides alcohol.”
Colorado cannabis customers spent an average of $58.55 per dispensary visit in 2020 according to figures from cannabis market data firm Headset, up nearly 20% from the previous year. The number of transactions, however, was up only 3.7% over 2019. Taken together, the data indicates that customers were stocking up on cannabis products at a time when other options were limited.
“It’s something we’ve all experienced in the last year, being encouraged to stay home and not go out for excessive trips,” said Cooper Ashley, a data analyst with Headset. “As long as there is some form of government or cultural encouragement to limit time out in the world, I expect we’ll see that trend continue.”
Cannabis flower was customers’ favorite product sold at dispensaries, generating more than 48% of licensed marijuana sales. The second-most popular product type was vape pens, which accounted for 16.2% of Colorado’s cannabis market.
“My guess is that customers typically see flower as one of the most cost-effective ways to purchase cannabis,” Ashley said. “That goes right along with the trend of basket sizes and stocking up. We’ve seen a lot more purchases of seven grams, 14 grams, and 28 grams (of flower). It’s more bang for your buck.”