The Washington Post

Marijuana demand in Colorado may be nearly a third higher than previously estimated


Tyler Williams of Blanchester, Ohio, selects marijuana strains to purchase in Colorado. (Theo Stroomer/Getty)

Adult Coloradans consume roughly 121 metric tons of marijuana a year, according to a new Colorado Department of Revenue study that estimates demand at 31 percent more than a recent projection and virtually double some outside estimates.

The study, released this week, sought to ascertain how often and how much pot is consumed by the state’s adult residents and visitors. What they found was that there are 485,000 regular adult users of marijuana, a group that accounts for roughly 9 percent of the state’s forecast 2014 population. Toss in adult residents who have used the drug in the past year and estimates of those under 21 years old who have used in the past year and that share rises to more than 15 percent of the population.

The study is unique in that, according to the authors, it’s the first to look at both demand and supply. Measuring supply is convenient because sales data is recorded, but it leaves out the significant role of black market, home-grown and imported marijuana. Measuring demand gives a better sense of how much of the drug is in use.

“While the amount of underground and illegal production is expected to decline significantly, some level is believed to exist to date,” the authors write. “Therefore, in order to determine the total market for licensed and unlicensed marijuana, a demand approach is more practical.”

To measure demand, the researchers first estimated the number of users and then the amount consumed by each over a given period of time. But that just gives an estimate of how often people are using, not how much. To measure demand, they relied on surveys. And because there are myriad ways to consume pot, each with varying potency, they measured by dried flower weight.

Here’s a tour of some of the report’s conclusions about marijuana use in Colorado, seven months after legal sales began there:

About 9 percent of adults are projected to use marijuana at least once a month

The state predicts that 485,000 adults consume the drug at least once a month, translating to about 9 percent of the forecast population for the year. Another 201,000 reported using it in the past year, roughly 3.8 percent of the population. And while the report focuses on adult use, the report did mention an estimated 184,000 residents under 21 years old who have used the drug within the past year.

Frequency of pot use is concentrated at the extremes


Adult residents either smoke pot (relatively) few times a month or nearly every day—there are few in the middle.

More than half of all adult resident users consume the drug in some form fewer than six times a month. (More than 1 in 4 consume less than once a month.) At the same time, about 1 in 5 users are near or at daily consumption.

Frequent users consume the vast majority of marijuana


While those roughly daily users account for just a fifth of the user population, they consume fully two thirds of the product.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
New Hampshire has voted. The Democrats debate on Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
What happened in New Hampshire
The Post's Philip Rucker and Robert Costa say...
For Trump, the victory here was sweet vindication, showing that his atypical campaign could prevail largely on the power of celebrity and saturation media coverage. But there was also potential for concern in Tuesday's outcome. Trump faces doubts about his discipline as a candidate and whether he can build his support beyond the levels he has shown in the polls.
The Post's John Wagner and Anne Gearan say...
Hillary Clinton, who was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses last week by the narrowest of margins, now finds herself struggling to right her once-formidable campaign against a self-described democratic socialist whom she has accused of selling pipe dreams to his supporters.
Quoted
People have every right to be angry. But they're also hungry for solutions.
Hillary Clinton, in her New Hampshire primary night speech
Quoted
I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.
Donald Trump, in his New Hampshire primary victory speech
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
See results from N.H.

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.