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Denver Hits 5-Year Milestone of a Legal and Regulated Recreational Marijuana Market

DENVER – January 1 will mark the 5-year anniversary of the world’s first commercial cannabis market. As Denver recognizes this milestone of successfully implementing recreational sales, here are some key stats about Denver’s marijuana market over this time.

  • Recreational marijuana sales in Denver 2014-2017: $1.038 billion
  • Recreational marijuana sales in Denver Jan.-Oct. 2018: $327 million
  • Total combined recreational and medical marijuana sales in Denver 2014-Oct. 2018: $2.28 billion
  • Recreational and medical marijuana revenue for Denver combining sales tax, state share back, licensing fees and Denver’s special tax on recreational marijuana 2014-Oct. 2018: $173.1 million
  • Tax revenue budgeted for key marijuana management elements of regulation, enforcement and education in Denver 2014-2018: $36.6 million
  • There are currently 216 locations where medical and/or recreational marijuana can be purchased in Denver.

Education: Denver dedicated $12.8 million towards education between 2014-2018. This includes:

  • Funding for 8 different youth diversion programs
  • Denver Public Schools training programs in 15 different schools consisting of substance prevention programs
  • Funding dedicated to support more than 45 different organizations, representing 112 afterschool programs in 2018
  • Denver’s High Costs youth education and prevention campaign featuring the first marijuana game show and a card educational game to give youth the facts to make educated decisions and have accurate peer-to-peer conversations

Notable budgeted investments from marijuana tax dollars in 2018:

  • $5 million from marijuana revenue for deferred capital maintenance
  • $4 million from marijuana revenue to fix aging parks and recreation centers citywide
  • An estimated $8 million per year to support the doubling of Denver’s Affordable Housing Fund

“In the five years since the voters said this is the path they want our state to take, the collaborative efforts that have taken place to do it the Denver way have been phenomenal, and put us at the forefront of not only how to manage legalization the right way, but in a smart way,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “We’re the global model for this new frontier, and we’ve done it through a dedicated group of city staff, led by Ashley Kilroy, working side-by-side with our industry partners and the community to find solutions so implementation could be done smoothly, safely and effectively.”

Ashley Kilroy has overseen Denver’s regulated marijuana market since the first day of recreational sales in 2014. “Being first wasn’t easy, but we’ve achieved the will of the voters in successfully managing marijuana for 5 years,” said Kilroy, the Director of Denver’s Excise and Licenses and Office of Marijuana Policy. “We’ve had success due to Denver’s coordinated approach with our city agencies working closely together, while listening to the concerns of the community, schools, our health care partners, the marijuana industry and others. We’re proud of what we have accomplished, but we know we have to prepare for new challenges ahead as the marijuana industry evolves and new laws are enacted on a state or national level.”

Milestones for marijuana in Denver include:

2012 Colorado voters approve Amendment 64, decriminalizing adult possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana and establishing a regulated market and licensed commercial marijuana distribution system.

2014 Retail sales of cannabis begin in Denver. Office of Marijuana Policy is established.

2015 Denver hosts the world’s first-ever Marijuana Management Symposium to serve as a valuable resource for other cities attempting to prepare for the administrative, legal, safety and business implications of marijuana legalization.

2017 The Department of Public Health and Environment released its first Cannabis Environmental Best Management Practices Guide, providing cannabis cultivators with environmental standards related to energy and water use reduction, waste minimization and pest control.

2018 Mayor Hancock and other officials from cities in states with legalization form first-of-its-kind government-led coalition to establish a national framework to proactively prepare governments for implementation of legalized marijuana.

2018 Mayor Hancock announced a citywide effort to expunge marijuana convictions for conduct that is now legal.

About Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses

The Department of Excise and Licenses (EXL) is the central business and professional licensing department for the City and County of Denver. The department issues approximately 180 different business license types including marijuana, liquor, short-term rentals, security guards and food trucks. EXL determines the qualifications for licenses under city ordinance and determines which licenses should be issued, renewed or suspended while ensuring consumer safety, protecting the community and promoting economic development. The department is also responsible for inspections and enforcement of business licensing requirements and the public hearing process that accompanies many business licenses.

EXL also encompasses Denver’s Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP), originally established in 2014 to recommend, administer and implement policies; oversee and coordinate city agencies; and act as a liaison between Denver and other local, state and federal officials, agencies, and stakeholders. OMP merged with EXL in 2016 and assists with coordination of marijuana regulation, education and enforcement efforts throughout Denver.