Colorado’s marijuana industry calls this year’s 4/20 sales ‘the worst’ in recent years

The Marijuana Industry Group, a Denver-based trade association, is sounding the alarm bells for the state’s cannabis industry, as falling sales compound with business closures and layoffs.

By Megan Ulu-Lani Boyanton, The Denver Post

Colorado’s marijuana industry dubbed weed sales for this year’s 4/20 “the worst” in five years.

The Marijuana Industry Group, a Denver-based trade association, is sounding the alarm bells for the state’s “struggling” industry, as falling sales compound with business closures and layoffs. This year, the market’s entrepreneurs are contending with too much supply, not enough demand, increased competition in other states, dropping prices, a dearth of cannabis tourism, the draw of black market weed and more.

April’s marijuana sales — medical and retail combined — stood at close to $132 million, which counts as the lowest number in five years, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. In April 2018, the number was about $124 million.

This year, total medical marijuana sales looked especially dismal in April at almost $17 million. That’s the lowest amount ever recorded for that month since sales first started in January 2014.

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Meanwhile, total retail marijuana sales in Colorado amounted to almost $115 million in April — the lowest number of sales since April 2020 at $112 million. Comparatively, retail sales jumped in 2021 to close to $167 million before plunging to $132 million that month of the next year.

“Colorado cannabis small business owners count on the weeks leading up to the 4/20 holiday to be some of the strongest sales of the year,” said Truman Bradley, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group.

His association estimates that “2023 sales are on track to be down even further than 2022.”

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In Denver, the number of medical marijuana store licenses has fallen 27 per cent over the past five years, to 144 licenses this year, according to its annual marijuana report. In 2014, that number was 255.

“As medical marijuana sales decline, some medical marijuana businesses have surrendered their licenses or let them expire,” the report said.

The drop in licenses parallels the decline in the number of registered medical marijuana patients since that year.

But some silver linings still persist for Denver’s cannabis industry. In 2023, the number of retail marijuana store licenses has jumped to 188 — a 13 per cent increase over the past five years. That’s a rise from 109 licenses in 2014.

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The trend of product delivery is catching fire, as delivery permits associated with stores grew from 19 last year to 24. The transporter license is noted by the report as “the most-issued license type to social equity applicants” who come from marginalized backgrounds.

Only 20 marijuana business license owners in the city are considered “social equity owners,” while 1,017 aren’t. About 79 per cent of total owners identify as men, with 19 per cent as women, over 1 per cent as other and 0.3 per cent as transgender. Around 90 per cent of the owners identify as white, followed by 4 per cent as Black and 3 per cent as multiracial, according to the report.

“There is always more work to do, and Denver continuously improves and evolves, particularly when it comes to social equity in the cannabis industry,” Mayor Michael Hancock wrote in a letter. “I am proud of the foundation my administration has built over the past decade and their dedicated efforts to ensure a bright future for this industry.”

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