What Do Industry Projections Mean For Denver’s Licensing Moratorium?

It’s been over a year since Colorado began what Sate Governor John Hickenlooper calls “the most ambitious social experiment of the 21st century.” On January 1, 2014, Colorado became the first state to legally sell recreational marijuana. Anyone over the age of 21 can now walk in to a Colorado dispensary and purchase up to 1 ounce of weed (1/4 ounce for non-residents). And foreseeing the inevitable explosion of the industry, entrepreneurs began lining up for a chance to open their very own retail pot shops.



When Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws first took effect, only owners of current medical marijuana businesses could apply for recreational licenses. But six months later, in July 2014, the state opened up the opportunity to any adult with established state residency. What’s more, when the stores opened for business in October of that same year, the State allowed them to specialize; companies could operate as wholesale growers without a storefront, or as stand-alone stores who purchase inventory from suppliers.

Currently, Colorado has licensed more than 300 recreational dispensaries. However, where these dispensaries will open up shop is still unclear. Many cities have bans on recreational marijuana. The state capital, in fact, retains a moratorium on retail license applications from newcomers until 2016. Denver retains the initial laws that first governed marijuana business licensing: only those with existing medical marijuana licenses can apply for a recreational marijuana business license.

But after reading a recent report from Oakland, California cannabis research firm The ArcView Group, Denver may want to reconsider their restrictions.

According to their report, ArcView deemed legal marijuana the fastest growing industry in the country. They valued it at $2.7 billion in 2014, a 74% jump from its previous value of $1.5 billion. The firm projects that this year alone, value will continue to grow another 32% to around $3.6 billion.

Gains will stem from an increased demand, and it’s only a matter of time before consumers force Denver to meet that demand by broadening the city’s marijuana allowances.

Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont has been at the forefront of Colorado medical and recreational marijuana regulation. In a Q&A session with The Denver Post, Singer says, “As marijuana becomes more commonplace, we are going to have to find ways for people to [purchase and] consume it legally outside their home in cannabis clubs that work similar to bars.” Singer continues, “If all of this is done safely and efficiently, you will see many of the marijuana bans in different cities start to lift. Once people realize that the sky hasn’t fallen and we are getting new tax revenue for critical services, then local prohibition will fade away.”