Colorado Cannabis Dispensary Counter: Growth From 2014 to 2018

A dual-use dispensary sells both medical and retail pot products, but must have a separate license for each.
A dual-use dispensary sells both medical and retail pot products, but must have a separate license for each. Scott Lentz
As we move into our fifth year of retail marijuana sales, it's virtually impossible to ignore the boom in dispensaries around Colorado. Although certain "dry" areas don't allow marijuana sales — Amendment 64 gave municipalities the right to choose which types of pot businesses to allow, or whether to ban them altogether within their jurisdictions — much of the state signed on for the green rush and hasn't looked back.

The list of licensed recreational pot shops in Colorado was less than four pages long when sales began on January 1, 2014, according to the Marijuana Enforcement Division; today it runs nearly thirteen pages. Recreational cultivations have seen even larger growth, with that list of licensees going from five pages to nineteen.

The MED has a treasure trove of marijuana business data on its website, which lists every licensed pot business in the state, medical and recreational. The data shows slowing growth for medical businesses, with recreational dispensary licenses now outnumbering their medical counterparts. The number of recreational cultivation licenses has grown nearly 400 percent since 2014, while medical grow licenses have grown by barely more than 5 percent.

To quantify the contrast in growth between Colorado's retail and medical marijuana industries since recreational sales began, we counted the number of licenses on the MED website for dispensaries, cultivations or infused product manufacturers in 2014 and compared them to the number of licenses in 2018. (Note: Many medical and retail business licenses share the same location, meaning a dispensary, cultivation or infused-product manufacturer may hold a license for both medical and retail markets.)

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell