Colorado’s cannabis industry grows even stronger in 2021 as sales break another record at $2.2 billion

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Marijuana grows in The Clinic’s warehouse in Denver’s Overland neighborhood. March 19, 2021.

Cannabis sales broke another record last year, topping $2.22 billion in products sold, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. This eclipses 2020 sales that reached upwards of $2.1 billion, which set a previous record.

Peter Marcus, a spokesperson for the recreational and medical cannabis dispensary chain Terrapin Care Station, wasn’t surprised when he saw the latest numbers from the state. Popularity for cannabis has only grown since the state-licensed retail sales of the plant in 2014, he said. Plus, 2021, just like its predecessor, was filled with pandemic anxiety.

“We find during crises times that people tend to turn to relief, and previously it had been alcohol. I think having this legal alternative was a significant shift for people,” he said. “What we learned from the pandemic is that cannabis is more or less recession-proof.”

Since the state began tracking cannabis sales in January 2014, weed sold by both medical and retail cannabis stores has cashed in over $12.2 billion.

Retail cannabis made up the vast majority of last year’s sales, approximately 82% or $1.82 billion of the $2.22 billion. Business peaked in March 2021 when retailers brought in more than $207 million that month.

Cannabis is a massive driver of tax revenue for Colorado, raking in over $423 million last year alone and upwards of $2 billion since 2014 in sales and excise taxes and fees. It’s also a big employer. According to an annual Leafly report, over 35,500 Coloradans worked in the cannabis industry in 2021.

Despite the billions of dollars flowing into the industry, it’s “an incredibly competitive market,”  said Marcus from Terrapin. It’s changing, too, which makes 2022 a bit uncertain.

“You're seeing a significant amount of mergers and acquisitions, where smaller cannabis companies are being bought out by much larger companies. What that's going to do to the market, we're not sure about,” he said. 

Marcus, however, is optimistic that sales will continue to rise next year.