What was once deemed a cannabis boom town in Colorado now has a large number of vacant cultivation facilities, leading some to consider it a reefer ghost town.
About 1,000 people live in Ordway, a town in Crowley County that had 56 active growing operations when times were good. However, licensing officials said it had only 20 at the end of 2023.
Chris Kaiser, owner of the local cannabis producer Bubba’s Kush, told the Denver Westword this month that you could throw a rock from his parking lot and hit half a dozen failed cultivations.
“That one’s closed. That one’s closed. That one’s closed,” Kaiser said. “A lot of people have just up and left. One guy is asking for US$1.3 million. Ha, good luck with that.”
Despite being an award-winning brand, Kaiser says that he and his company’s seven staff are currently in survival mode. He attributes this to the low price of cannabis in the state, which has dropped by 56 per cent since Bubba’s Kush made its first harvest in 2021.
Cannabis sales drop sharply after pandemic
The number of growing operations throughout Colorado dropped by over 21 per cent after pandemic restrictions were no longer in place. The number of workers in the state’s cannabis industry declined by over 30 per cent since that time as well.
“Even if you’re still open, you’re struggling. Being a cannabis grower was never all it was cracked up to be, but this is getting out of control,” Kaiser said.
Sean Azzariti, the first Colorado resident to ever make a recreational cannabis purchase, says there used to be all sorts of mom-and-pop dispensaries in the state but now only a few brands have survived.
“It happened quick,” Azzariti told the Westword. “Colorado was genuinely a boom town for 10 years. You can kind of see now that it has become a race to the bottom.”
Inflation is another significant factor contributing to the state’s cannabis decline.
Colorado’s pot sales total for 2023 is expected to be about US$1.5 billion, a 13 per cent drop from 2022.
Last August, despite industry woes in recent years, Colorado celebrated US$15 billion in cannabis sales since it opened its adult-use dispensaries in 2014.
One of Ordway’s most notable events occurs each June when the town has a summer festival featuring a classic car show and parade.