Feature Image

Washington State Has Quietly Overtaken Colorado to Become Nation’s Leading Legal Marijuana State

Recent tax data shows that since October 2016, the state of Washington has had higher monthly sales of legal marijuana than Colorado.

Over the last three months of 2016, the state of Washington quietly surpassed Colorado in legal monthly marijuana sales, according to a recent report from cannabis information website Leafly.

Comparing tax data provided by each state’s respective cannabis-regulating departments, Washington overtook Colorado and pulled in more in marijuana sales in October, November and December last year. Colorado’s recorded sales in October, November, and December were $114 million, $103 million, and $111 million, respectively. Washington’s recorded sales for those three months were $115 million, $112 million, and $112 million.

According to Leafly, Washington’s official overtaking to become the nation’s leading legal marijuana state can be attributed to the collection of data regarding sales of medical marijuana. Medical marijuana sales in Washington State were moved into state-licensed adult use retail stores beginning July 1, 2016, and before then, sales of medical marijuana were not reported to the state Liquor and Cannabis Board. While those medical sales were happening before July, they were not reported to the state. Since the integration of medical with adult use sales began, Washington’s cannabis consistently sales topped $110 million, whereas before then monthly sales had never hit the $100 million mark.

Colorado, the very first state to legalize recreational marijuana and implement its program, did still beat the state of Washington in total marijuana sales for 2016. Colorado dispensaries recorded $1.3 billion in marijuana sales for the year, while Washington’s annual sales figure for the year was just over $1.1 billion. In addition, when taking into consideration population differences between the two states (Washington – 7.3 million, Colorado – 5.5 million), Colorado remains above Washington in terms of per capita sales.

Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2001 and in Washington since 1998. Voters in both states passed their respective recreational marijuana measures in 2012 and sales officially started in 2014. In the more than two years since their adult use programs were implemented, Washington has generated sales of $1.6 billion, while Colorado has historically dominated, pulling in nearly $3 billion in total sales.

Colorado and Washington are two of the eight states that have passed both adult use and medical marijuana legislation, allowing cannabis for medical use and for adults 21 and older to possess and use marijuana recreationally. Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C. have passed and implemented their recreational marijuana laws, while California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine have passed laws but not yet started regulated sales. A total of 28 states have so far passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislation.

Despite that in the U.S. cannabis federally remains a Schedule I substance, the current growth rate of the nation’s legal cannabis market is growing faster than the dot-com boom of 2000. A recent report from ArcView Market Research predicts that the U.S. legal cannabis market will grow by 25 percent this year and eventually reach over $21 billion in sales by 2020.

Learn more about the current cannabis laws in Colorado and Washington by visiting our education page.