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2017: Colorado Sells $1.5 Billion in Cannabis

Legal marijuana sales in Colorado last year broke yet another revenue record in 2017. The state sold $1.51 billion worth of hemp, surpassing the previous record of $1.3 billion set in 2016. In 2015, sales were $996 million.

The numbers were released by the Colorado Department of Revenue on Friday, and show that revenue from recreational flower, edibles, and concentrates reached $1.09 billion last year, while the medical hemp market made $416.52 million. The DOR data show that legal marijuana sales added more than $247 million to the state’s tax coffers.

In December 2017 alone, dispensaries sold $96.34 million in recreational hemp products, and medical marijuana sales topped out at $31.92 million.

Both cities and counties are allowed to ban or allow marijuana businesses, and since adult-use sales began, the number of municipalities that have approved marijuana sales has increased. In January 2014, only 25 towns had recreational marijuana dispensaries, compared to 75 retail hemp dispensaries in 2017.

Colorado has seen sustained growth in the hemp industry since retail sales began four years ago–from 2014 to 2017, the growth rate was at 120 percent.

However, experts warn that the growth rate is beginning to slow and stabilize. While 2017 brought in record-breaking hemp sales, it also had the smallest annual growth. In 2016, hemp sales grew by 31 percent, while hemp sales in 2017 were up by only 15.3 percent.

In dollars, that means that while there was a gain of $200 million in revenue from 2016-2017, but that increase was nearly 36 percent less than the annual gains from 2015 to 2016 and 2014 to 2015.

Adam Orens, a founding partner of the Marijuana Policy Group, told the Denver Post, “I think what we’re starting to see is the leveling off of the market after the illicit market is absorbed.” Orens estimates that 90 percent of the state’s black-market sales have been absorbed by the legal market.

Other factors that could influence the growth rate of the hemp industry in Colorado are the increasing number of states legalizing marijuana (especially California) and the downward cost of wholesale marijuana.


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