Report: Coloradans Smoking Pot By The Tons

Greg Campbell | Contributor

Coloradans are smoking marijuana by the ton — an estimated 121 metric tons annually, to be more specific, a much higher demand than previously thought.

The estimate was included in the first ever market study of marijuana consumption patterns in a legal market, conducted by the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.

The agency extrapolated the estimate from the first three months of retail sales data, providing an illuminating picture of how much pot is being smoked and by whom.

Out-of-state visitors, for example, are responsible for 44 percent of recreational marijuana purchases in the Denver metro area and a whopping 90 percent of sales in mountain resorts.

“This study finds total marijuana demand to be much larger than previously estimated,” the report concluded. “Our point estimate of demand is 121.4 tons per year for adult residents. This is 31 percent higher than a recent Department of Revenue assessment, 89 percent higher than a study by the Colorado Futures Center, and 111 percent higher than an older study by the Colorado Center for Law and Policy.”

Colorado voters legalized marijuana in 2012, but retail sales of recreational pot to adults only began in January. Adults are also allowed to grow their own pot at home.

Driving the higher-than-expected consumption rates are the state’s heavy users who smoke or consume marijuana daily. They represent about 22 percent of all users, but account for nearly 67 percent of demand.

By comparison, the majority of users — 29.2 percent — are casual tokers who partake only about once a month. They account for a scant 0.3 percent of the overall demand.

Compared to national trends reported by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Colorado has more heavy users than the national average, but because pot remains illegal in 48 states and under federal law, the national statistics may be under-reported.

The estimated tonnage of marijuana consumption includes both medical and recreational marijuana, but the consumption by visitors is for recreational pot only; only state residents can get medical marijuana cards.

The figure also includes an estimation of the number of plants grown by at-home medical caregivers, who are allowed to grow plants for private patients, and a range of estimates for adults who grow pot at home for their own recreational use.

To account for the variables, the report allowed that its tonnage estimation may vary.

“We believe the potential range for total adult marijuana demand, including visitor demand, is between 104.2 and 157.9 metric tons,” the report said.

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