Marijuana sales growth slows for Steamboat Springs and Colorado
January 17, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The major spikes in Colorado's marijuana sales that followed legalization have tapered off across the state, a trend reflected in Steamboat Springs.
Despite the slowing sales, marijuana remains a billion-dollar industry for Colorado.
In 2014, the first year that recreational marijuana became legal for adults 21 and older in Colorado, states sales totaled $683 million. Next year's sales rocketed to $995 million. By 2016, sales broke the $1 billion mark, totaling $1.3 billion. These figures are according to the most recent report from the Colorado Department of Revenue.
From January to November 2018, state sales reached $1.4 billion, which should bring the year's totals just slightly above sales from the year before.
Steamboat marijuana sales accounted for about $11.9 million of that statewide total in 2018.
This represents a leveling out in the steep year-to-year increases that followed legalization.
Unsurprisingly, the lowest months for Steamboat's marijuana sales were May and November when tourism is low.
By the Numbers
Colorado marijuana sales
Below are figures detailing total medical and recreational marijuana sales in Colorado since January 2014.
2014 – $638 million
2015 – $995 million
2016 – $1.3 billion
2017 – $1.5 billion
2018 – $1.4 billion (January to November)
Source: Colorado Department of Revenue
Steamboat marijuana tax revenue
Below are marijuana tax revenues for Steamboat from the time the city began recording such data in 2015. Numbers for December 2018 are not yet available.
2015 – $366,456
2016 – $431,112
2017 – $489,885
2018 – $475,912
In Steamboat, which collects a 4 percent tax on marijuana sales, annual increases in marijuana tax revenue have steadily declined since legalization. Tax revenue increased by 13.6 percent between 2016 and 2017, down from a 17.7 percent increase between 2015 and 2016. The city began tracking marijuana tax revenue in 2015.
Numbers for December 2018 are not yet available. Tax revenue from last year is on track to exceed revenue from 2017 but at a record-low increase compared to previous years.
Other Colorado towns are reporting a similar flattening rate. In Frisco, another tourism-driven town, marijuana sales rose 0.7 percent in 2018 compared to the same timeframe in the previous year.
Those flattening tax increases are not a big concern for Steamboat Springs finance managers.
From year to year, marijuana tax revenue in Steamboat typically only account for 1 to 2 percent of the total tax revenue.
"It's a tiny sliver of the pie," said Sue Davies, the city's budget and tax manager.
Davies said she still expects marijuana tax revenue to increase in the future but added that it is hard to determine consumer patterns in the industry.
Davies pointed to other factors that have contributed to revenue increases in the past, namely a citywide increase in dispensary business hours that Steamboat Springs City Council allowed in February 2017. She said other factors like special cannabis-related events or the development of more dispensaries in Steamboat could boost future marijuana tax revenue.
Three retail marijuana stores currently operate in Steamboat: Billo, Rocky Mountain Remedies and Golden Leaf, all of which are on the west side of town. This is the maximum number of retail marijuana stores that the city allows. City Council members discussed increasing that number in a December work session, but a decision was not made.
Kevin Fisher co-owns Rocky Mountain Remedies, a marijuana dispensary on the west end of town. He has been trying to secure a downtown location for his business that would allow more consumer traffic and possibly boost marijuana sales.
"We are the least accessible of the locations, right now," Fisher said.
His business filed a lawsuit in summer 2018 against the city after City Council denied its relocation application. He hopes that changing attitudes among council members will alter their decision.
Still, Fisher isn't worried about future sales.
"We have a very loyal, local following," he said. "Hopefully, a change in location will grow that following."