Summary: Denver has seen a significant decrease in illicit cannabis activity nearly a decade after Colorado legalized adult-use cannabis. However, Denver’s cannabis industry has faced challenges, with overall cannabis sales in the state declining in 2022. Despite these challenges, Colorado still generated substantial cannabis tax revenue. Denver’s social equity program, aimed at increasing industry participation by individuals disproportionately impacted by criminalization, appears to be struggling, with only a small percentage of registered marijuana businesses owned by social equity licensees.
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Denver’s Cannabis Landscape: A Decrease in Illicit Activity Amid Sales Challenges
Nearly ten years after Colorado legalized adult-use cannabis, Denver, the state’s capital and the first city in the U.S. to open adult-use marijuana retailers, has reported a significant decrease in illicit cannabis activity. According to a municipal government report, there has been a 74% reduction in the amount of illegal marijuana processed by police since 2014. This decrease is attributed to a reduced demand for unregulated products and a potential shift in enforcement priorities in the current legal environment.
However, Denver’s cannabis industry has faced its share of challenges. Data indicates that overall cannabis sales in the state began to decline in 2022, falling 22% from the previous year. Denver experienced the most significant drop, with marijuana sales decreasing by 28% during the same period.
Despite the decline in sales, Colorado still generated $54.8 million in cannabis tax revenue in 2022. These funds were used to address homelessness and housing affordability, as well as support education, prevention, regulation, and enforcement initiatives.
The downturn in cannabis sales has been attributed to several factors, including reduced foot traffic and tourism, increased minimum wage and regulations, and intense competition. As a result, some businesses are contemplating relocation or closure if conditions do not improve.
The report also highlighted a significant decrease in marijuana-related offenses, which now constitute only 1% of all reported offenses in Denver. Out of 87,791 total criminal offenses in 2022, only 263 were clearly related to marijuana. Contrary to initial fears, Mayor Hancock noted in the report that youth cannabis use and crime did not increase following marijuana legalization.[Source: Green Market Report]
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