When did recreational use in Colorado start?
Cannabis or marijuana is still a Schedule 1 Drug and therefore illegal at the federal level. However, many states have decriminalized marijuana and have allowed for cultivation, sale, and consumption based on certain regulatory criteria. On January1, 2014 Colorado became the first state in the Union to legalize recreational cannabis and started an amazing social experiment to see what changes would occur. Over the past 6 years, Colorado officials can say that the State has fully embraced the industry and Colorado has become a leader in cannabis regulatory and even a tourist attraction.
Most of the sales initially came from THC edibles and CBD edibles, however, Colorado edibles are on the tip of the ice burg. Cannabis tourism has grown an amazing niche in Colorado where 25% of people who traveled there between 2013 and 2018 listed cannabis as a reason. They can attend Colorado edibles cooking classes, buy vaporizers and all kinds of consumption products like CBD edibles. Since then 10 other states have legalized recreational cannabis and 33 have legal medical cannabis.
Why are the sales so high?
Colorado, being the first state to successfully employ a regulatory framework on a Schedule 1 drug, is seen as a vision for growth. The regulatory framework that was first put into place eased the market from the black market to the forefront of society with limited licenses. This created a robust and expensive price point. The first few dispensaries acted similar to a proof of concept by successfully selling Colorado edibles safely and securely. Society didn’t crumble because you could buy CBD edibles in the open.
Colorado officials, convinced that the market was being regulated well, opened the floodgates to more dispensaries and farming industries. This flood of new purchasing locations decreased the price to the point that cannabis products because accessible to everyone on a regular basis. The market stabilized and has since steadily grown and now accounts for 3% of Colorado’s tax revenue. Businesses have taken in upwards of $6.5 Billion in sales since 2014.
Is there similar success in other states?
No. Colorado’s success hasn’t fully materialized in any other state including Washington, Oregon, or California. This could be due to a failed regulatory scheme, poor industry set up, or like in California where the taxes control over whether or not growth happens. Colorado, though, is still going strong with cannabis tourism and the possibility of federal changes. If cannabis was removed as a Schedule 1 drug Colorado would be poised as the go-to industry leader for business, tech, and agricultural solutions for every other state.
In 2014 there were only 30 stores in all of Colorado that were allowed to open. By the end of the year there were 300. This wasn’t due to lack of capital but due to a market controlled by regulations that slowly introduced the industry to the populous. Hopefully, in the future, more states take Colorado’s led and learn to walk before they run.