Colorado Marijuana Market Largely Driven by Heavy Users | Center on Addiction

Colorado Marijuana Market Largely Driven by Heavy Users

Colorado Marijuana Market Largely Driven by Heavy Users


A new report from the Colorado Department of Revenue gives us insight into the size of the market and demand for legal marijuana (both medical and recreational) in the state. Demand is much higher than expected: total marijuana demand for adults is estimated to be between 104.2 and 157.9 metric tons. This is largely driven by daily users, who make up almost 70% of total demand. Casual users, defined as people who report using marijuana less than once a month, only make up 30% of total marijuana users, and they consume less than 1% of total demand.

 Marijuana Market Similar to Alcohol Market

This news shows the marijuana market is troublingly similar to the alcohol market, which is driven by heavy users. In fact, a 2006 CASAColumbia white paper found that nearly 30% of the total amount Americans spend on alcohol was due to people who have alcohol abuse issues or dependence, amounting to nearly $40 billion. Bottom line: the alcohol industry is driven by and profits from people with alcohol problems. We fear the same thing will happen in the marijuana market.

 Making Money Off Of New Users

The other driving force in the alcohol and drug industry? New users, often teens.  We found that the alcohol industry makes an estimated $22.5 billion from alcohol consumed by underage drinkers. We are seeing a similar trend with marijuana. The Colorado Department of Revenue reports that 184,000 residents under 21 reported using marijuana in the past year, and 59,000 reported using it in the last month. This is especially worrying, as heavy use during adolescence has been linked with a number of immediate and persistent health problems, particularly respiratory and cognitive (i.e. attention, concentration, memory, motivation) problems.

 Consider the Consequences

The increased availability of alcohol, tobacco and now marijuana may be good for a corporation’s or state’s revenue, but they are devastating to the health of the country. Large corporations have yet to enter the marijuana industry, but the danger that this will happen as legalization spreads is very real. As a nation, we need to be especially alarmed about the specter of big business operating and controlling the recreational marijuana market. Using sophisticated business practices modeled on the highly profitable alcohol and tobacco industry, these companies will create more young marijuana users and exacerbate the problems experienced by marijuana addicted adults and adolescents. 

 Margaret Raskob, MPH

 Margaret Raskob is a freelance blogger.


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