Steep Contraction in the Colorado Cannabis Market

The number of active cultivator licenses has declined nearly 20% since January.

Operators appear to be fleeing the oldest regulated recreational marijuana market in the United States – Colorado, which launched adult-use sales on New Year’s Day 2014.

Since the beginning of the year, scores of growers and manufacturers have called it quits as the industry has faced one of its toughest periods ever.

Looking at the most popular and prolific cannabis business license categories, which includes cultivators, manufacturers and retailers, the number of active permits has shrunk by 302 since just January, according to statistics from the state Department of Revenue.

But the contraction appears to have begun earlier than that.

Cultivators have seen the biggest drop, with a whopping 19.4% license decline since January, and a 23.5% decrease since January 2022. As of Oct. 3, there are 979 active marijuana grow permits issued, including 325 medical and 654 recreational.

While the manufacturing sector has fared slightly better, it has taken a significant hit as well. The number of active business licenses in the segment has declined 8.6% since January and is down almost 12% since the start of 2022. There are currently 464 infused product makers in Colorado, including 191 medical and 273 recreational.

Retailers appear to be the most resilient to the industry’s broader woes, but even here, there are still fewer today than 10 months ago. Active cannabis shop licenses are down 2% since January, to a current total of 1,044, which includes 361 medical dispensary permits and another 683 adult-use.

The Colorado market appears to have peaked in 2022, although some of the licensing data from 2021 is not available on the state’s website.

In January 2022, Colorado boasted:

  • 1,279 total licensed cultivators (484 medical, 795 recreational)
  • 525 manufacturers (226 medical, 299 rec)
  • 1,072 retailers (420 medical, 652 rec)

Until last year, the state’s marijuana industry consistently reported year-over-year growth since its inception in 2014, when it began with just 1,698 total business licenses.

Several factors may be behind the reversal, including the opening of a recreational market in New Mexico and Oklahoma’s booming medical marijuana industry.

John Schroyer

John Schroyer has been a reporter since 2006, initially with a focus on politics, and covered the 2012 Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana. He has written about the cannabis industry specifically since 2014, after being on hand for the first-ever legal cannabis sales on New Year’s Day that year in Denver. John has covered subsequent marijuana market launches in California and Illinois, has written about every aspect of the marijuana trade, and was part of the team that built the cannabis industry’s first-ever trade show, MJBizCon. He joined Green Market Report in 2022.


  • Robert Huffman

    October 24, 2023 at 9:06 pm

    They need to factor the amount of turnover. It’s not the sales it’s the companies. They have been complicit in discrimination, they refuse to allow farmers to organize contracts of employment which secure the legitimatacy of the employees. Colorados market is on a downturn but the reality to it a major factor in this is that the companies and how they treat the employees. In 2022 the largest and most coordinated anti union bust occurred at Colorados Largest farm Live well HQ. The employees wanted contracts of employment, fair market raises, a bargain committee of employees, addressing the discrimination that has occured from 2019-2022 and they wanted to address the downward spiral of the condition these products are produced. Blame the corporations whom pushed out the farmers and the amount of badge holders that have left due to this pressing discrimination. This is the problem. I call on all farmers of Colorado to stand against this behavior. It’s ruining our industry. I stand as the former leader of livwell coalition of employees that stood up all throughout Colorado to address these concerns. We have over expanded and underachieved. We need to reform the agriculture bill of rights that protects these farmers from conglomerates and corporations overreach. SB21-087.


  • Tom Hutcherson

    October 25, 2023 at 7:18 am

    It would sure help if the pot wasn’t so bad. The growers have bred ALL if the compounds out of the plants, and what we’re left with is garbage. It’s all in the name of money. You want to increase sales, GROW SOME DECENT WEED.


  • Jason Wood

    October 25, 2023 at 9:06 pm

    In my point of view as a former care giver and current industry employee, the company’s put the wagon in front of the horse. Expanding to mutch thinking that people where going to work from home for a longer time then expected. You can’t consume as frequently at the office compared to your home. So with that said we need to look back a 2019s numbers and judge the market from there. Plus or minus for inflation and we are killing ourselves in a race to the bottom for the cheapest pound. The industry needs to raise prices and stop under cutting your neighbors.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the latest cannabis news delivered right to your inbox

The Morning Rise

Unpack the industry with the daily cannabis newsletter for business leaders.

 Sign up

About Us

The Green Market Report focuses on the financial news of the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Our target approach filters out the daily noise and does a deep dive into the financial, business and economic side of the cannabis industry. Our team is cultivating the industry’s critical news into one source and providing open source insights and data analysis


Recent Tweets

Get the latest cannabis news delivered right to your inbox

The Morning Rise

Unpack the industry with the daily cannabis newsletter for business leaders.