Record Sales, Highways and Cannabis Degrees — How Colorado is Leading the Way

The Colorado Cannabis Industry enjoyed its most lucrative year to date and found novel ways to sidestep the state's restrictive advertising laws, while CSU kicked off a new cannabis science degree.

The Colorado Cannabis Industry is continuing to grow at an astonishing rate, reaching a new sales record in 2019 that made it the most lucrative year for cannabis sales in the state's history.

Combined sales from medicinal and recreational marijuana in Colorado hit $1.75 billion in 2019, representing a 13% increase from 2018.

People are moving from the unregulated market to the regulated market. As reefer madness goes away, as the stigmatism of cannabis reduces and people come over to the regulated market, I would expect that trend to continue. Marijuana Industry Group Executive Director, Truman Bradley

At the same time, data from the Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division shows that cannabis-related tax collections also reached a new historical high, bringing in more than $302 million during 2019.

August was the top performer during the 2019 calendar year, bringing in $173 million in cannabis sales, although December also put on a strong showing as revenue climbed by 6.7% to $144 million.

This means that the total marijuana sales for Colorado have now reached $7.79 billion since recreational cannabis was legalized in 2014, while approximately $1.21 billion in tax revenue has also been generated.

High-way Maintenance

Data published by the Adopt a Highway Maintenance Corporation this week also revealed that cannabis companies in the Rocky Mountains state are the leading sponsors of Colorado's high cleanup efforts.

Currently there are 51 different cannabis manufacturers, cultivators and retail dispensaries who sponsor 66% of road maintenance efforts throughout the state, despite accounting for less than half of the companies that participate in the program.

According to the Director of Government Affairs for the Boulder-based Terrapin Care Station, Nico Pento, the reason for this is the state's onerous advertising laws when it comes to cannabis.

State regulator specifically prohibit any cannabis-related business from advertising on TV, radio or in print—unless they can prove their audience is primarily 21 or older—in an effort to protect minors.

And things are even tougher when it comes to social media, as cannabis related pop-ups are banned and companies can be hit with automatic shutdowns for violating ambiguously worded advertising regulations.

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"The rules governing highways signs are in a different section than rules governing the cannabis industry," Pento said.

"The highway signs were a loophole that was overlooked."

As a result, many Colorado-based cannabis companies began flocking to the Clean Colorado program, as it allowed them to pepper the state's highways with the names and logos of their businesses.

This sentiment was also echoed by the Director of Business Development for LivWell Enlightened Health, Mike Lord, who explained that the program is a win-win as it allows cannabis companies to build brand awareness, while also making a positive impact on the environment at the same time.

"Obviously, you've noticed how many of those signs are sponsored by cannabis businesses, so it's pretty incredible how many stretches of mile of highway are being cleaned right now," Lord said.

CSU Launches Cannabis Science Degree

There was also big news this week from the campus of Colorado State University, as the state government gave the green light to the college to go-ahead with its planned Cannabis Chemistry bachelor's degree program.

The degree will be broken into two streams, with one focusing on biology while the other will have more of an analytical chemistry focus. However, both courses will include units in physics, maths, biochemistry, genetics and neurobiology.

The Dean of Science and Mathematics, David Lehmpuhl also confirmed that they expect the program to see high demand from students, although this does not mean that they consider themselves to be evangelists for the cannabis industry.

"Hemp and marijuana has really come to the forefront in a lot of economic sectors in the country," Lehmpuhl said.

"We're not pro-cannabis or anti-cannabis. What we're about will be the science, and training students to look at that science."

Although Colorado was one of the earliest states to get in on the cannabis game, Colorado State University is not the first to offer a cannabis degree.

In fact, there are now several in the US including Lake Superior State University (LSSU) in Michigan, which launched what it described as the first cannabis chemistry degree in the US in 2017. According to an assistant professor from the LSSU program, Benjamin Southwell, the degree covers a diverse range of subject matter, from chemistry to consumer safety and law.

"Our program is designed to walk the students through testing and the chemistry behind what's going on in the cannabis plant, so in consumer products, consumer safety, law enforcement and how all those things combine and interact from a chemistry perspective," Southwell said.

Hocking College in Ohio also began offering cannabis lab technician degree in 2018, while the University of Maryland kicked off a master's degree in medicinal cannabis science and therapeutics in 2019.

However, considering the cannabis industry is still the biggest creator of new jobs in the US and is expected to be worth $73.6 billion by 2027, this should hardly be a surprising development.  

This could be one of the best investing opportunities of 2020

Legislative changes are blowing through the US, and with it, an ever-increasing number of states legalising cannabis for recreational use.

With the success seen in Illinois, which legalised for adult-use on January 1 and saw products moving off the shelf at an unprecedented rate, this company is primed to take advantage of the booming US recreational market.

They have secured partnerships with the biggest cannabis companies in the US, and their portfolio is second to none.

And with the sector-wide pullback of 2019, this company is now at a bargain-basement price.

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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