The first year of legal retail marijuana is in the books for Colorado. The Colorado Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division recently released its annual report for 2014. Not surprising is that 2014 was a big year for marijuana sales. Perhaps what is surprising is how much and how exact the data is, as much of the data from the report was captured with Colorado’s METRC “seed-to-sale” tracking system.
For those interested in Colorado’s marijuana numbers in 2014, 109,578 pounds of medical marijuana and 38,660 pounds of retail marijuana sold. There were 1,964,917 units of medical marijuana edibles and 2,850,733 retail edibles sold. According to Reuters, Colorado tax officials said sales were around $700 million in 2014, with $386 million of it medical and $313 million from the recreational market.
The report, called an Annual Update, was released on February 27, 2015, and touted many firsts in the state of Colorado, including the “first-in-the-world comprehensive regulatory model overseeing cultivation, products manufacturing, and sale of marijuana for non-medical retail use.” When it says overseeing, the state is supposed to know where any product is between the time it is planted and the time it is sold.
The MED report affirms the state’s commitment to transparency and providing aggregated data on Colorado marijuana commerce, and then the report breaks down the year by medical and retail plants cultivated for sale, medical and retail edible units sold, and the edible testing when it came online in May of 2014. The report concludes with a look at the MED’s efforts as an office to regulate and respond to issues of investigative due diligence and investigations of complaints, among others.
For business licenses, MED reported an overall growth of 30 percent; 2,249 licensed premises at the end of 2014 compared to 1,734 at the start of the year. Of those licensed businesses, 1,416 were medical and 833 were retail.
In addition to business licenses, the report showed an increase in occupational licenses; the MED requires these licenses for those employed by marijuana businesses. January 2014 began with 6,593 occupational licenses, and that number increased to 15,992 occupational licenses by the year’s end. While that suggests growth in marijuana industry jobs, there are other circumstances that factor into the equation, such as renewal rates are low, suggesting high turnover rates drive the high number of licenses.
Only about 21 percent of the first batch of occupational licenses issued beginning in May 2011 and expiring between May and December 2013 were renewed by the people to whom they were issued. The report said the MED occupational license renewal rate for marijuana workers increased to about 32 percent in 2014.
Beyond personnel, the report collected data on plants and products. METRC, Colorado’s seed-to-sale tracking system, was implemented at the end of 2013. It recorded over 37 million events in 2014, according to the report. On average, there were between 300,000 and 320,000 medical plants from February through December. There were about 25,000 cultivated retail plants in the system in January, and that number rose steadily every month to 200,000 cultivated plants in December.
All in all, 148,000 pounds of marijuana was sold legally in Colorado in 2014; 109,578 pounds of medical and 38,660 pounds of retail. And that just covers the plants. Edibles are another story.
The trend shows that edibles are far more popular in the retail market than the medical market, although edibles weren’t as readily available at retail stores early in the year, as reported in MMJ Business Daily. Ultimately more medical edibles were sold than retail, 411,099 medical units to 359,412 retail edible units; however, the smart prediction, based on the report’s illustrated trends, would be that more retail units will sell in 2015.
After the section on edibles, the report turns to testing facilities. Testing regulations for retail edibles began in May 2014, for two types of testing: potency and homogeneity.
Since May 2014, 98.2 percent of the potency tests performed passed and 99.2 percent of the homogeneity tests passed. There were 3,893 potency tests conducted through the end of the year to ensure that no products were being sold that contained more than 100 mg of THC in a single unit. Only 72 failed potency tests were reported by METRC. Over the same time period, there were 2,261 homogeneity tests ensuring equal distribution of THC in products, and only 18 of those failed in 2014. Contaminant testing for residual solvents and microbials will become a regulation in 2015.
With Orwellian regulations and tools like METRC, the marijuana scene, as this report shows, is carried out under the very watchful eye of the government, which should give investors quite an insight into what to expect as more states legalize marijuana for medical and recreational reasons.