More of the legal marijuana sold in Colorado is increasingly for recreational use

The recreational market continues to increase its share of Colorado’s legal marijuana sales, with a new report showing that 66 percent of the total pounds of marijuana flowers and 86 percent of the total units of edibles sold in 2018 were for recreational use.

In 2017, recreational use accounted for 58 percent of the total pounds and 83 percent of the units of edibles sold by marijuana businesses, according to an annual update released Monday by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division in the state Department of Revenue. Medical marijuana made up the rest of the sales.

The number of recreational marijuana business licenses increased by 3 percent while the number of medical marijuana licenses dropped 8 percent, the first decline in a couple of years, said Shannon Gray, division spokeswoman.

The report is the division’s fifth straight analysis of the marijuana industry. Recreational use was legalized in 2014, and the medical use of marijuana was approved in 2000.

“This ongoing analysis and compilation of industry information helps inform the public and contributes to our outreach efforts to stakeholders,” said Jim Burack, division director.

The report’s findings include:

  • Marijuana plants for recreational use, or what the report calls adult use, accounted for 75 percent of all the plants cultivated from July to December.
  • An average of 1,316 new employee licenses were issued each month in 2018. Approximately 30 percent of the employee licenses that expired in 2018 were renewed.
  • There were a total of 1,577 licensed recreational marijuana business and 1,396 licensed medical marijuana businesses at the end of 2018 — a total of 2,973. At the end of 2017, there were 1,531 medical licenses and 1,520 recreational licenses — a total of 3,051
  • For the third straight year, the following counties had the highest number of plants cultivated: Denver, Pueblo, El Paso and Boulder. Denver accounted for more than a half million plants each month.

Last year, Colorado’s marijuana industry hit a record $1.55 billion in sales. At the end of May, sales totaled $665.6 million.

RELATED: Colorado surpasses $1 billion in marijuana tax revenue

A study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics found that some Colorado teenagers are shifting from smoking marijuana to edibles. About 78 percent of the teens who reported using in 2017 said they usually smoked it, down from 87 percent two years earlier.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment participated in the study.

The recreational use of marijuana in Colorado is illegal for anyone under 21. Gray said it’s a priority of the state to keep marijuana out of the hands of kids and teens. She said the Marijuana Enforcement Division prioritizes compliance checks to make sure businesses aren’t selling to underage customers.

The division said that 92 percent of the businesses passed the sales checks in 2018.

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Author: Judith Kohler
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