Legal Marijuana Outsells Liquor in Aspen, Colo.

shutterstock 510515875
shutterstock 510515875

Cannabis retailers have outsold liquor stores in Aspen, Colorado, for the first time since legal adult-use sales began in 2014.

Six state-approved dispensaries and five liquor stores currently operate in the city. Last year, Aspen dispensaries took in $11.3 million in revenue. Combined, the liquor stores took in $10.5 million.


The figures come from Aspensn’s Department of Finance year-end sales tax report for 2017. The report shows revenue increases for businesses across the board in Aspen. Overall, Aspen businesses took in 2 percent more revenue in 2017 than in the previous year, but dispensaries experienced the biggest growth with a 16-percent spike in sales.

“I think it’s meaningful for a couple of reasons,” Matt Kind, a Boulder entrepreneur and host of the CannaInsider podcast told the Aspen Times. “One in particular is when people are visiting Aspen and adjusting to a high altitude, some don’t drink for that first couple of days. And I think people are looking for something different from alcohol, which is essentially poison, and marijuana is botanical. I don’t say that with judgment, but you feel some lingering effects with alcohol.”

Needless to say, the cannabis community was pleased by the news.

“I think it shows adults are open to change,” said Max Meredith, manager at the Stash dispensary. “There are new substitutes, and they can be handled responsibly. And perhaps there are a few less late-night fights.”

Cannabis sales in Apsen have grown each year since adult-use sales started. In 2015, the first full year of adult-use sales, Aspen shops sold $8.3 million worth of marijuana products. The figure rose to $9.7 million in 2016 and $11.3 million in 2017.

The success of Aspen’s dispensaries does not appear to come at the expense of local liquor stores. In fact, liquor stores remained more popular than dispensaries during the holiday season, earning $1.6 million vs. $1.2 million for cannabis shops.

“When [legalized recreational marijuana] first came along, there were questions if it would hurt business,” said Tom Ressel, day manager for the Local Spirits liquor store. “But obviously it hasn’t.”

There is other positive news for the Aspen liquor industry: Alcohol sales in restaurants and bars totaled approximately $130 million last year. Since there are no marijuana cafes and public consumption is not allowed, liquor likely will continue to have an advantage in that sector of the market.