Colorado vs California – The Tale of the Tape

Aug 20, 2018 2:42:06 PM / by BDSA

A heavyweight battle. January-June, 2018. Two superstars itching to jump into the preverbal cannabis ring. But first, we need to size up our competitors.

Were the battle based entirely on brawn, the fight would end before it began. California today is the largest market in the world for legal cannabis sales, and no jurisdiction on earth is likely to eclipse the Golden State for years to come. By comparison, the nation’s first adult-use cannabis market and its second-largest, Colorado, is about half the size of California’s.

But there’s more to market supremacy than raw muscle. Some types of cannabis products triumph in Colorado. Consumers’ strain preferences diverge. And when it comes to price, one state generally knocks out the other.

It’s time for a head-to-head battle royale between the nation’s pot heavyweights. And thanks to our GreenEdge ™ Retail Sales Tracking platform, all of our measurements are accurate. No cheating allowed during this weigh-in.

Overall Retail Sales

In terms of retail sales, it’s no contest. California consumers through the first six months of 2018 spent $1.14 billion on cannabis products, compared to $754 million in Colorado. The Centennial State may have had a four-year head-start on adult-use sales, but it didn’t make much of a difference.

 Advantage: California

Retail Outlets

This is probably one of those categories where the winner should not become too comfortable — she's in first place now, but not for long. Californians today support about 600 legal dispensaries; prior to adult-use legalization there were more, but their legality was questionable. And for this comparison we only consider legal stores as of the end of July 2018. Meanwhile, there are about 1,000 pot shops in Colorado. Enjoy this advantage while you can, Coloradans! It's sure to vanish soon.

 Advantage: Colorado 

Units/Grams Sold

Cash registers at California dispensaries clearly hauled-in the most money. But were they the busiest in terms of sales activity. They were not! Despite California’s profound dollar advantage, people in Colorado actually bought more individual items during the six-month period we measured. At 96.1 million grams or units, Coloradans bought more individual products than Californians, who purchased 80.1 million grams or units. 

Advantage: Colorado

Average Retail Price

If we judge the price based on brand smiles, California would win. But that’s not our measure. Instead, we analyze the breadth of consumer smiles, and here Colorado stream rolls California. The average retail price for a cannabis product in Colorado, from a gram of Super Lemon Haze to a vape pen, was $7.82. In California, the average price hit $14.04. Those poor California consumers! Hey, Cali — not everybody in the state rolls like Zuckerberg! 

Advantage: Colorado


Gummy candies long ago walked away with the victor’s belt in terms of edibles sales. No other product in any state surpasses gummies — not hard candy, not mints, not tinctures or chocolate bars. How do Golden Staters and Coloradans treat the mighty gummy? The candies are more popular with Colorado consumers, who bought enough to garner a 39 percent market share, compared to California’s 26 percent. But still, California gummy sales of $47 million beat those in Colorado, with $46 million.

Advantage: Toss Up 


If gummies lord over the edibles landscape in both Colorado and California, in the concentrates category vapes occupy a similar throne. Vapes are No. 1 in sales in both states, over other styles of concentrates like shatter, wax and Live Resin. But with Vapes, unlike the situation with gummies, a clear victor emerges. Californians dropped $283 million on vapes during the six-month period, which represented 79 percent of all concentrate sales. In Colorado vapes were also on top, with $96.9 million in sales, but market share was just 43 percent. Instead of handing vapes the ‘keys to the kingdom,’ Coloradans keep wax, shatter and Live Resin in the running.

Advantage: California


This contest veers from the previous battles: We aren’t selecting a state-based winner. Instead, we are looking at which strains win in the two states. In both states, sativa-dominant hybrid Blue Dream wins (as it does in other states). Californians spent $6.6 million on Blue Dream during the period, while Coloradans dropped $4.34 million. The more interesting contest is second place. In Colorado that goes to Durban Poison, a pure sativa from South Africa known for its sweet perfume and its ability to conjure energy and alertness. But Californians went crazy for Kosher Kush, an indica with loads of THC (some samples hit 29 percent) and earthy, fruity flavors.

Advantage: Sleep and couch-lock for Californians, due to their love of Kosher Kush. And skiing and trail running for Coloradans, because they go nutso for the energetic Durban Poison.

This battle is far from over, and that is a good thing for the marijuana consumers making their purchases in the great states of Colorado and California.

For those looking to place bets on the big fight, check out our Tale of the Tape infographic:

Colorado vs California: Tale of the Tape Infographic

Click here to download

Tags: Cannabis Infographics, Colorado, Cannabis Consumer Research, California Cannabis

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