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Med and Rec in Colorado and Oregon Go Own Ways

Before pot shoppers in Colorado and Oregon open their wallets for a gram of Green Crack or a vape pen, they first must decide which kind of store to visit: medical or adult-use. Both dispensaries will carry roughly the same mix of flower, concentrates, edibles, topicals and other products. But sales at the two kinds of shops diverge from each other — adult-use and medical consumers are not two peas in the same pod.

High-level look at sales in Colorado’s medical channel during May 2018.

In Colorado in May, medical sales represented 21 percent of the overall cannabis market. Just a year earlier, medical captured 29 percent of the market. Meanwhile, dollar growth in May, compared to the previous May, is deep into negative territory — down by 28 percent. Clearly, consumer enthusiasm for medical shops continues to decline, five years after Colorado began adult-use sales. And for adult-use stores it keeps on rising — up 8 percent in May over the previous May according to cannabis market research firm BDS Analytics.

Preference for flower is pronounced in Colorado’s medical stores, where flower grabbed 49 percent of all sales in May; by comparison, flower represented 41 percent of sales in adult-use stores during the month.

Market share for concentrates and edibles are about the same for both sales channels, but pre-rolls, which capture 7 percent of the adult-use market, barely register in the medical market. Those medical shoppers love their flower, but it appears they want to do their own rolling.

Vapes dominate concentrate sales in both channels, but where they capture 50 percent of concentrate sales in adult-use stores, sales represent only 28 percent in medical shops. Medical shoppers embrace shatter (20 percent of sales), Wax (19 percent)  and Live Resin (17 percent) with more ardor than adult-use shoppers.

The edibles landscape between the two styles of shops is about the same: Candy leads, followed by chocolate and tinctures.

Strains: In medical shops the top three are Blue Dream, Durban Poison and Green Crack; in adult-use shops, the line-up is Durban Poison, Gorilla Glue #4 and Blue Dream.

One big difference between the two shops: the degree of damage the stores inflict upon shoppers’ wallets. The average retail price in a medical shop is $5.21, but in adult-use that number rises to $8.87.

Oregon medical sales in May of 2018.

The story is similar, yet different, in Oregon, where medical shops now account for just 10 percent of all cannabis sales, and sales during May of this year fell by 5 percent compared to the previous May. Meanwhile, adult-use dollar sales during the month rose by 26 percent.

Where flower’s domination of sales was significantly stronger in Colorado’s medical channel than in it’s adult-use market, the roles are switched in Oregon. Flower captured 40 percent of adult-use sales in May, but flower is even less dominant in the medical market, where it represents 39 percent of sales. 

Where edibles sales among Colorado medical and adult-use shoppers were roughly the same, they diverge in Oregon. The top edible among medical consumers is candy, with 38 percent of sales, followed by tinctures close behind at 37 percent. In adult-use stores, however, candy sales capture 54 percent of sales, followed by tinctures at 19 percent. While shoppers in both channels dig candy and tinctures, medical consumers spend more of their money on other edibles products.

Strains: Durban Poison, Purple Hindu Kush and Zkittlez in medical shops, and Purple Hindu Kush, Durban Poison and Blue Dream at adult-use shops.

Prices in Oregon medical and adult-use shops are nearly the same, which stands in stark contrast to Colorado, where medical shops products sell at a discount compared to adult-use stores. In Oregon, the average retail of $9.51 in a medical shop is actually more expensive than the average price of $9.29 in an adult-use shop.

Doug BrownDoug Brown

Doug Brown

Douglas Brown spent more than two decades in newspaper and magazine newsrooms around the country, covering everything from the White House and Capitol Hill to technology policy to crime in New Mexico. Now, he runs Contact High Communications, a leading cannabis public relations firm based in Boulder, CO. He can be reached at

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