Stock illustration, marijuana leaves and dollar sign symbol

Colorado marijuana sales hit $1.5 billion in 2017

Colorado’s trailblazing cannabis industry has a new high-water mark: $1.5 billion.

The state’s marijuana shops raked in $1.51 billion sales of medical and recreational flower, edibles and concentrate products during 2017, according to Colorado Department of Revenue data released Friday.

Adult-use sales topped $1.09 billion during the record year, with the remaining $416.52 million coming from medical marijuana. Colorado collected upward of $247 million in taxes and fees revenue from marijuana sales, according to state finance data.

Colorado’s marijuana industry may have notched a new high in 2017 — and a record December in $128.27 million — but analysts and economists caution that sales may soon plateau.

Related: Per-capita recreational marijuana sales sky high in Colorado’s southern border communities

Those sales have been increasing at slower rates than in the early stages of recreational marijuana legalization.

Cannabis sales in the state were up 15.3 percent in 2017. In 2016, sales grew 31 percent.

“We’re no longer growing at 40 percent and 30 percent,” said Paul Seaborn, an assistant professor who taught the first-ever Business of Marijuana course at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. “We’re still not quite at the peak and should still see 5 (percent) to 10 percent sales growth.”

Those growth rates may see some slight bumps if other towns and municipalities opt to allow adult-use cannabis sales, he said.

“I think what we’re starting to see is the leveling off of the market after the illicit market is absorbed,” said Adam Orens, a founding partner of Marijuana Policy Group LLC, a Denver-based economic and policy consulting firm focused on the cannabis industry.

Orens estimated that 90 percent of Colorado’s black market sales have been absorbed into the regulated market.

“And we’re nearing the completion of that absorption,” he said.

As marijuana develops into a more mature industry in Colorado, it’s growth will come slower and become more heavily dependent upon factors such as population growth, he said.

Miles Light, Orens’ colleague at Marijuana Policy Group, takes his projections a step further:

“I personally believe that sales will decline in 2018” versus 2017, he said.

Colorado’s industry likely will feel the pinch from other states implementing recreational marijuana programs in addition to continued downward pressure on prices, Light added.