DENVER – Two years after legalizing recreational marijuana in the state, Colorado is nearing another milestone: 3,000 business licenses for pot.
The number of marijuana business licenses has increased by about 70 percent in the two years since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado.
A professor at The University of Denver has spent a lot of time in 2016 compiling data about Colorado's marijuana industry.
His main finding is that active marijuana business licenses are at the highest number they've ever been – 2,913 – as of Dec. 1, 2016.
Assistant Professor Paul Seaborn of DU’s Daniels College of Business says the majority of those licenses are for medical marijuana businesses.
“The first number that jumps out is the total number in our state,” Seaborn said.
But, the other two kinds of licenses - products manufacturing and retail marijuana cultivation - have increased a lot in the past year.
The two different markets – recreational and medical – have provided some interesting data for Seaborn to study.
The data doesn’t show exactly what kind of impact the legal pot industry has made on Colorado tourism, but Seaborn had some thoughts on the topic.
“The fact that Denver is such a busy spot for these licenses definitely suggests that tourism is a helpful part of the market. Although recreational marijuana is not the majority of licenses yet, that’s where all the growth seems to be,” Seaborn said.
“Over the last year the retail or recreational licenses are the ones that have really increased in number. A lot more product manufacturing, a lot more cultivation feeding that recreational and retail market. So, pretty soon it may reach that tipping point where the recreational market actually has more operating businesses than the medical side," he said.
That’s across the board, but city-by-city it varies. Such as in Pueblo, where the recreational businesses far outnumber the medical businesses.
In Professor Seaborn’s opinion, what’s the most interesting takeaway?
Well, a few things.
So far, the marijuana industry’s state-level rules make a huge difference in how the industry evolves. Since Colorado’s rules were pretty friendly to marijuana businesses, that has made it a “hotbed of innovation,” according to Seaborn.
“A big question always with new industries is what's similar to previous industries that we know about. Whether it's tobacco or alcohol, or even the automobile industry. And what's different, I think, what you see with the marijuana industry so far, are the rules set up by the state level. It's been primarily at the state level, they make such a difference as to how the industry evolves,” Seaborn said.
His research will track patterns within the data of marijuana licenses in Colorado. Denver has the highest concentration at 1,200 total licenses for the city.
No other state has hit numbers like Colorado, said Seaborn, and that’s partly because of how unique Colorado’s approach to legal marijuana has been. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
“It’s not a guaranteed success, but across the population there have been some very successful firms. Brand names are becoming more common,” Seaborn said.
There's a lot of interesting data about which brands have the licenses, which cities hold the most licenses, etc.
Read more about the study here.