Colorado has one of the oldest and most developed legal marijuana markets in the country. The state was an early adopter of medical marijuana and the first to begin recreational cannabis sales, leading to today’s sophisticated industry and experienced operators.
Colorado’s combined retail and medical marijuana sales hit a record $1.75 billion in 2019, up 13% from 2018, according to the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED). Since recreational sales began in 2014, Colorado has sold $7.79 billion in legal marijuana.
Tax revenue also hit an all-time high last year, resulting in more than $302 million for the state. Marijuana tax dollars fund public education, substance abuse programs, health research, youth education and more. Although not the largest market, Colorado had the highest per-person sales, with people buying an average of $280 worth of cannabis per year compared to $220 in Washington and $130 in Oregon.
Colorado allows open applications for cannabis licenses and does not have strict limits on the number issued, unlike other states. Recently, the Legislature approved medical marijuana delivery and hospitality licenses that allow on-site consumption. As of June 2020, adult-use marijuana business licenses included 699 cultivations, 592 stores, 284 product manufacturers, 11 testing facilities, 10 transporters and three hospitality businesses, as well as eight operators licensed to contract with marijuana retailers to provide operational services. As of April 2020, 80,257 patients had an active medical marijuana registration, and 432 physicians had recommended medical marijuana for one or more patients.
While the Colorado marijuana industry is heavily regulated, its advantage as a first mover is apparent. Advanced technology and know-how powers the industry and makes Colorado an international cannabis leader. Due to the stability of the industry and the well-established regulatory scheme, Colorado has limited the legalization issues seen in other states, like black market cannabis and oversupply.
New legislation allows publicly traded companies to invest in marijuana businesses and hold licenses, opening the industry to outside investors and lowering the barrier to ownership. As a result, the MED has started to allow publicly traded companies to operate plant-touching businesses and acquire Colorado cannabis operators. Colorado has also started correcting the damage done by marijuana prohibition. A new law gives the governor power to mass-pardon Coloradans for marijuana possession convictions and extends the social equity program for marijuana business licenses, a promising signal of greater civil change for Colorado cannabis.
Charles Feldmann | Hoban Law Group
Charles Feldmann serves as a Trusted Adviser for the cannabis industry’s largest and most profitable businesses on an international scale as a Partner at the Hoban Law Group. He uses his past experience as a state and federal prosecutor, and DEA Drug Task Force Commander to assist his clients in establishing strict regulatory compliance protocols at both the state, federal and international levels.
Charles is a prolific columnist, writing on the legalized cannabis and expanding hemp marketplaces and a highly sought-after international speaker. He also currently serves as the CEO of a global cannabis strategy company, Gateway Proven Strategies.