After six months of legal adult-use marijuana sales we are getting our first good look at the size and shape of the cannabis market in Colorado, thanks to a new report by the Marijuana Policy Group prepared for the Colorado Department of Revenue.
The big finding is that total demand for marijuana in Colorado is projected to be 130.3 metric tons this year, higher than past predictions. Most of that is for Colorado adult residents who will likely consume 121.4 metric tons this year. The remaining 8.9 metric tons is for tourists to the state. Of course, what the exact amount ultimately will be is subject to many factors so the estimate could be off by two dozen tons in either direction. Getting precise data about legal home growing and the gray market is still difficult.
The bulk of the marijuana appears to be consumed by the frequent user. About one fifth of marijuana users in Colorado partake almost daily and they consume roughly two thirds of all the marijuana.
A particularly interesting finding is where most of the new retail consumers are coming from. Because of the low tax rate on medical marijuana and greater number of medical marijuana stores, most existing patients are not switching their buying outlets for now.
The report finds, “Using the latest retail marijuana tax statistics from the Department of Revenue, we also found that conversions from medical to retail consumption is relatively low. Instead, retail supply of marijuana is growing, while medical marijuana is relatively constant. This may indicate that medical consumers would rather pay the medical registration fees as opposed to the higher tax rates, or that there are currently relatively few retail outlets compared to medical centers. Therefore, the retail demand is derived primarily from out-of-state visitors and from consumers who previously purchased from the Colorado black and gray markets.”
For example, in Denver it is estimated that 44 percent of recreational marijuana sales are to visitors and the rate is even higher in some ski towns. Clearly, many people are coming the Colorado to enjoy the new freedom.
There also appears to be a slow but steady shift away from smoking dried flowers. Vaporizing, edibles and concentrates are becoming more popular. This is a trend worth watching. It is possible this could even turn into a small positive for public health since these methods of consumption are less taxing on the lungs.
One of the many smaller benefits of legalization is we now have a closely monitored industry to provide us with real data instead of just imperfect guess work about marijuana buying habits, use, products and price. We will be able to clearly see how things evolve moving forward.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy
Photo by Cannabis Training University under Creative Commons license