Marijuana legalization has been in full motion for a while now, and dispensaries are finally starting to gather and comprehend retail data like other big-money industries.
Cannabis industry data collection firm BDS Analytics recently released its first study on Colorado and Washington marijuana dispensaries, surveying the purchase rates of marijuana flower, concentrates, edibles and other infused products from participating dispensaries' point-of-sale systems. BDS used its data — spanning from the the first quarter of 2014 to the fourth quarter of 2015 in Colorado and the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015 in Washington — to find out which varieties of flower, hash and edibles legal cannabis consumers are buying the most.
Roy Bingham, founder and CEO of BDS Analytics, says his firm surveys around 20 percent of Colorado's marijuana dispensaries and product manufacturers, giving it an operational sample size to make estimates for the rest of the industry.
"Dispensaries will make significant changes after viewing our data because they benchmark their trends versus averages in the market," he says. "They can look at the details and say 'What brand or product am I not carrying that's doing really well in the market?' It helps them decide what products to buy in the future."
What, you thought New Belgium Brewing just blindly makes massive amounts of Fat Tire because the owners hear people say nice things about it? No, no, no. Distribution and POS data showed the company a detailed figure of how much and type of beer was being sold, and it updated production accordingly. Now that marijuana dispensaries are becoming more stable thanks to regulations, they're doing the same.
And what has BDS learned since 2014? Here are some highlights from its inaugural report:
Coloradans love their Durban
Almost generating $5 million sales, Durban Poison was Colorado's top-selling strain. The pure-sativa landrace from Africa is known for its pungent aroma and uplifting high. Blue Dream — Washington's top-selling strain and a favorite among commercial growers because of its high yields and shorter flowering period — was also a big player in Colorado dispensaries, ranking second in sales. The indica versus sativa battle was almost a stalemate, with 23 percent of flower sales going to indicas, 22 percent to sativas and 55 percent to hybrids.
Vaporizer cartridges continue to gain popularity, oils and budder fading
The Colorado concentrate market has been slowly changing thanks to the improving technology of pre-filled vaporizer cartridges. After only representing a small sliver of concentrate sales in the first quarter of 2014, pre-filled cartridges accounted for 23 percent of Colorado concentrate revenue at the end of 2015, second only to shatter (28 percent). Hash oils and budder, which accounted for nearly half of concentrate revenue in the first quarter of 2014, only combined for 24 percent of revenue last quarter.
We still eat like children
The Colorado edibles market grew every quarter until the end of 2015, dipping under the $30-plus million in revenue achieved in quarter three of 2015. Stories of children mistaking marijuana edibles for regular sweets haven't seemed to scare consumers into changing their eating habits, either. Candies and chocolates still dominate the edibles market, accounting for 44 percent and 19 percent of revenue in the most recent quarter. Beverages and pills have seen a slight uptick in revenue share since the beginning of 2014 and now represent a combined 10 percent of ingestible product sales.
Colorado and Washington have very similar consumption habits
Despite being nearly 1,000 miles apart, the cannabis consumption habits of Coloradans and Washingtonians don't differ much. A little more of Colorado's pot revenue comes from concentrates and edibles than Washington's, and consumers there smoke slightly more flower than we do. At least consumers from both states were smart enough to stay away from ripoff known as pre-rolled joints. though.
Welcome to the shatter state
One noticeable market difference between Colorado and Washington involved preferred concentrates. Although pre-filled cartridges are quickly gaining traction in Colorado, they're nowhere near as popular as they are in Washington, where they account for 36 percent of concentrate revenue. Another glaring difference is the amount of shatter, wax and budder sold in Colorado as opposed to Washington. Sixty percent of purchased Colorado concentrates in the fourth quarter of 2015 fell into the shatter, wax and budder categories, compared to just 20 percent in Washington during its most recently tallied quarter.
Unlike Colorado, Washington bans medical marijuana processing facilities from extracting with butane, instead only allowing a small number of licensed recreational facilities to do so. Because of this, butane-ran varieties of shatter, wax and budder are much more limited in Washington than in Colorado, making CO2 concentrates and older, "other/unspecified" options (bubble hash, kief, etc) more popular.
Bingham says that BDS expects to have comprehensive data on Oregon dispensaries within the next few months and has started looking into emerging markets such as Arizona, Massachusetts and Nevada.
Have a tip? Email it firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.