Media Confused About How Many Tons of Pot Colorado Sold in 2014

A photo of a marijuana grow included in the Marijuana Enforcement Division's annual report, on view below.
A photo of a marijuana grow included in the Marijuana Enforcement Division's annual report, on view below.

Headlines of reports by news agencies such as Huffington Post and Yahoo! scream that Colorado sold 17.5 tons of retail marijuana in 2014.

Sounds like a lot, and it is — even if that total was actually dwarfed by the amount of medical marijuana peddled in the state over that span: an amount rounded off by HuffPo and Yahoo! as 49.7 tons.

Funny thing, though: Both of these numbers are wrong, at least when using metrics employed in the United States. By those standards, the sales figures were around 19 tons for retail marijuana, 74 tons for MMJ.

Continue for the amusing explanation — and plenty of other data from the report, included in its entirety below.

Another photo from the report.
Another photo from the report.

Turns out HuffPo and Yahoo!, among many other American news agencies, used a report from Reuters, a British news agency — and tons are counted differently in the U.K. than they are here in the states. Here's a simple explanation from OnlineConversation.com:

The British ton is the long ton, which is 2240 pounds, and the U.S. ton is the short ton which is 2000 pounds.

Both tons are actually defined in the same way. 1 ton is equal to 20 hundredweight. It is just the definition of the hundredweight that differs between countries. In the U.S. there are 100 pounds in the hundredweight, and in Britain there are 112 pounds in the hundredweight. This causes the actual weight of the ton to differ between countries.

To distinguish between the two tons, the smaller U.S. ton is called short, while the larger British ton is called long.

As such, Reuters' math is correct when it comes to long tons, but off by a considerable amount when applied to the way a ton is measured in America — and none of the reports in the states that we've seen mention the distinction.

Another photo from the report.
Another photo from the report.

To simplify the situation, here are the figures in pounds, direct from the report.

• 109,578 pounds of medical marijuana flower sold

• 38,660 pounds of retail flower sold

• 1,964,917 units of medical edible products sold

• 2,850,733 units of retail edible products sold

The document also breaks down sales by county — and Denver rules in both categories. Here's the retail marijuana graphic:

As you can see, Denver accounts for more than 23,000 pounds of the 38,000 pound retail marijuana total.

That's roughly 60 percent of the overall total.

Denver's domination extends to the MMJ category, too.

Here's that county-by-county graphic:

The 62,000-plus pounds of MMJ sold in Denver last year accounts for roughly 57 percent of the more than 109,000 pounds sold statewide.

As we've noted in our coverage of a controversial caregivers bill that passed its first committee test last week, many legislators and officials are trying to move more customers from medical marijuana to the recreational type because the taxes on the retail side are much higher.

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The MED report suggests that progress is being made in this effort, at least as measured by plants being grown for the separate markets.

As you can see by the following graphic, MMJ plants still have the lead over the retail kind, but by year's end, the margin had narrowed considerably.

There's much more information in the complete report. Read it here:

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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