While April 20 might not mean much to non-cannabis users, for marijuana enthusiasts, the date known more commonly as “4-20” has become a holiday.
Four-twenty — which landed on Tuesday this past week — also looked and felt quite a bit different than April 20 just one year ago, when the state, country and world were grappling with a global pandemic.
According to Green Dragon Director of Corporate Operations Austin Steeves, this past Tuesday, Green Dragon’s Aspen dispensary sold three times the amount of cannabis products than it did on April 20 last year.
The cannabis company, which operates 15 marijuana dispensaries across Colorado, saw revenues plummet at its Aspen location, specifically, shortly after Gov. Jared Polis shut down ski resorts on March 15 last year. At the time, there were 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pitkin County and 20 confirmed cases of the virus in neighboring Eagle County.
“Because of Aspen being such a heavy-tourist town, sales got killed there,” Steeves said of Green Dragon’s marijuana shop in Aspen. “Our graphs will show just a tremendous drop in sales and I think it was just — everybody left.”
However, while Green Dragon’s Aspen dispensary experienced a significant decrease in revenue during the early days of the pandemic, many of the company’s other retail marijuana shops, especially along the Front Range, saw their cannabis products fly off the shelves.
“In Denver, our sales have always been great,” Steeves said. “We were turning and turning and turning great revenue.”
According to Steeves, more people working from home also led to more people using cannabis while working from home, especially in places like Denver.
“I personally have friends who are in [information technology] and they can casually smoke throughout the day,” Steeves said. “They talk about how their weed expenditures and budget have gone up dramatically.”
Steeves noted that Green Dragon’s Aspen location also welcomed a different clientele than its other locations.
“Aspen is an edible market for us.” Steeves said. “Edibles are their bestsellers there, which kind of speaks to that more mature demographic. In Denver, it’s flower. Everywhere else it’s flower.”
Aspen’s marijuana sales, as a whole, have crept back up since last spring. According to city sales tax reports, marijuana sales were down 42.5% in April 2020 compared to April 2019. In fact, “liquor” was Aspen’s only retail-sales category that experienced a year-over-year increase last April.
“When our industry was declared ‘essential’ early on, I think we all took that in stride and channeled all our energy to collectively get through it,” Melanie Lemmer, Roots RX assistant general manager said in an email Thursday.
Lemmer said Roots Rx, which has dispensaries in Aspen, Basalt and other locations on the Western Slope, relied heavily on its loyal-local customer base throughout the pandemic.
“We have a steady pace of locals that are brand loyalists and many days, those familiar faces have kept us going through this pandemic,” Lemmer said. “Locals visit Roots Rx regularly, we are so thankful to Aspen for that.”
Last May, when Aspen’s retail liquor sales shot up 54%, local marijuana sales dropped 4.1% year-over-year. However, while Aspen’s liquor and marijuana sales have largely tracked different courses throughout the pandemic, both experienced a 23.4% year-over-year increase in November.
“Certainly, we saw some slow downs in production times in the beginning of the pandemic, while we were all figuring out how to navigate through it. But, for the most part, we watched our industry respond by being very nimble and quick to adjust to new regulations,” Lemmer said. “Cannabis brands in Colorado have had to work extremely hard to be legitimized, so we have it in our DNA to be able to respond quickly and accurately.”
So far in 2021, retail liquor sales in Aspen have increased whereas marijuana sales have slightly decreased. However, with a busy summer anticipated, Steeves and Lemmer were both optimistic about Aspen’s retail-marijuana market for the months ahead.
“It’s finally time to have something to celebrate and we whole-heartedly embrace cannabis as an acceptable reason,” Lemmer said.