Legal sales of marijuana in Colorado topped $2.1 billion in 2020 according to regulators, the highest figure recorded since sales of recreational cannabis began in the state in 2014. Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) released its 2020 Regulated Marijuana Market Update last week, revealing strong retail sales fueled in part by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is the first to show the impacts of COVID-19 on Colorado’s legal commercial marijuana industry using the state’s METRC data,” MED senior director Dominique Mendiola said in a press release on December 23. “Colorado saw the most marijuana sales ever in 2020, and it’s vital to provide the public with this level of sophisticated analysis to understand the year-over-year trends of this industry.”
Combined sales of medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis totaled $2.19 billion last year, an increase of 25.3% over 2019, according to the report. Recreational marijuana sales were also the highest ever, with the state’s adult-use cannabis retailers ringing up $1.75 billion worth of purchases in 2020, an increase of 24.1% over the previous year.
MED reported that while an increase in adult-use marijuana sales had been foreseen by state regulators, “an increase in medical marijuana sales was unexpected.” Sales of medicinal cannabis rose 30.7% to $442.5 million in 2020, the first significant increase of medical marijuana sales since 2016.
Cannabis And Covid-19
Sales of both adult-use cannabis and medical marijuana appear to have benefitted from the Covid-19 pandemic that first swept the nation in 2020. State officials designated medical marijuana dispensaries as essential businesses, allowing the retailers to continue serving patients throughout mandated lockdowns. And after a brief period of being limited to curbside pickup, recreational marijuana shops were allowed to reopen to customers provided they instituted social distancing protocols.
Noting that entertainment venues and social gathering spots were closed to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, Wanda James, co-owner of the Simply Pure cannabis dispensary, told the Denver Post that many people considered using marijuana to be a good way to relax and unwind from the stress of the pandemic.
“What a grand thing to have happened,” James said earlier this year. “I’m glad in a state like Colorado people could legally choose a plant to help them with their anxieties or boredom or creative blocks. I’m glad they had a choice besides alcohol.”
James also noted that as a Black-owned business, Simply Pure benefitted from the public reaction to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May of last year.
“The uptick in people that were looking to support a Black-owned business after the George Floyd murder was by far the driving force that pushed Simply Pure over the other dispensaries,” she said.
Cannabis Flower Regains Market Dominance
Colorado marijuana regulators also noted in their report that sales of cannabis flower in the state had rebounded after years of losing market share to marijuana concentrates. Although cannabis flower has been the most popular category of marijuana products since 2014, each year flower sales have lost market share while sales of concentrates and marijuana edibles increased. In 2020, however, cannabis flower sales rebounded, according to state data.
“Data from 2020 represents the first year in which Flower has increased in market share compared to the previous year, increasing from 53.9 percent of all MMJ sales to 58.9 percent, and from 46.8 percent of all AUMJ sales to 49.8 percent,” MED wrote in its report. “Data shows an increase in both flower price and quantity sold in 2020.”
The rise in cannabis flower market share came at the expense of marijuana concentrates, which dropped from 32.4 percent to 30.1 percent, and edibles, which saw a market share drop of 0.4 percent. Regulators cited an increased availability of cannabis flower and lung injuries attributed to vaping products in 2019 as possible reasons for the increase in market share for cannabis flower.