CO: Marijuana Dispensaries Outsell Liquor Stores In Aspen For First Time Since Legalization

Photo Credit: John Locher

Marijuana dispensaries have out-sold liquor stores in Aspen, Colorado, for the first time since the state started recreational cannabis sales in 2014, accounting for more than $11 million in revenue during 2017.

Aspen’s six state-approved marijuana dispensaries logged $11.3 million in sales during 2017, compared to $10.5 million generated by the five local liquor stores during that same span, outselling booze for the first time since Colorado opened the nation’s inaugural recreational dispensaries in 2014, according to year-end figures released Wednesday by the city’s Finance Department and first reported by The Aspen Times.

“I think it’s meaningful for a couple of reasons,” Boulder entrepreneur and podcast host Matt Kind told The Aspen Times. “One in particular is when people are visiting Aspen and adjusting to a high altitude, some don’t drink for that first couple of days. And I think people are looking for something different from alcohol, which is essentially poison, and marijuana is botanical. I don’t say that with judgment, but you feel some lingering effects with alcohol.”

Coloradans voted in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana and implement a framework for taxing and regulating retail sales, and the nation’s first retail pot shops opened their doors throughout the state on Jan. 1, 2014, albeit not immediately in Aspen, a ski resort town of hardly 7,000 west of Denver.

Aspen’s first recreational dispensary opened in March 2014, and by the next year the number of pot shops there had swelled to seven. While the number of dispensaries have leveled off, however, annual weed sales within city limits have consistently increased by roughly 16 percent since the first full year of legalization. Aspen’s marijuana dispensaries sold about $8.3 million worth of medical and recreational weed in 2015, followed by $9.7 million in 2016 and $11.3 million during the last calendar year.

Statewide, Colorado’s legal marijuana dispensaries sold $1.3 billion worth of pot during 2016, the most recent year for which data is available.

Nines states and D.C. currently have laws in place legalizing recreational marijuana, including six where adults can purchase cannabis from retail dispensaries — Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington state —notwithstanding federal laws prohibiting pot.

Fifty-nine percent of registered U.S. voters surveyed last month said they support legalizing marijuana, up from 46 percent in 2013 and 51 percent in 2015, according to the results of a Fox News poll published Wednesday. Sixty-four percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, according to a Gallup poll released in October, and 70 percent are opposed to the federal government interfering in states with their own legal weed laws, Quinnipiac University pollsters announced last month.