Colorado's Pot Stores Sold 5 Million Packages of Edibles Last Year, Mostly to Recreational Consumers

They sold 74 tons of buds, mostly to patients.


Dixie Elixirs & Edibles

Last Friday the Colorado Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) released its first annual report, which reveals that cannabis-infused edibles, despite all the public alarm about the special hazards they pose, are enormously popular among recreational consumers. Recreational outlets sold nearly 3 million packages of edibles, compared to the 2 million or so purchased by patients. In other words, recreational users accounted for almost 60 percent of edibles sold. By contrast, they accounted for just 26 percent of the marijuana flowers sold: 38,660 out of 148,230 pounds. Patients bought nearly three-quarters of the buds.

Jacob Sullum

That pattern is somewhat surprising (to me, anyway). You might expect patients to prefer edibles, which provide longer-lasting relief and do not require smoking (although the same could be said for buds consumed in vaporizers). And while the risks associated with edibles have been greatly exaggerated, it's true that the effects are much slower, less predictable, and less controllable, which you might think would deter neophytes. Edibles also give you less bang for your buck, although that would be a bigger concern for frequent users.

Whatever the disadvantages of edibles, it looks like the ability to consume cannabis easily and inobtrusively in a palatable form has proven to be a big draw. And unlike New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who famously freaked out after consuming more THC-infused chocolate than she should have, most consumers unfamiliar with edibles are probably careful to "start low and go slow," taking advantage of the dose information on the package. According to the MED, independent testing that began last May found potency information was accurate 98 percent of the time.

Some other highlights from the MED's report:

  • At the end of the year, Colorado had 833 recreational retailers and 1,416 medical dispensaries (some of which operate out of the same locations).
  • Out of 321 local jurisdictions in Colorado, 72 allowed recreational sales and 88 allowed medical sales; 228 banned both businesses.
  • As of December, growers had about 133,000 flowering plants for the medical market and 91,000 flowering plants for the recreational market.

These numbers show that Colorado, where legal recreational sales began in January 2014, remains far ahead of Washington, where state-licensed pot stores did not begin opening until last July. As of February 25, the Washington State Liquor Control Board had issued 116 retail licenses, compared to 833 in Colorado, which has a significantly smaller population.