Flower Shortage! Colorado’s bud-supply is dangerously low, and some in the industry say it’s not likely to change

Flower Shortage! Colorado’s bud-supply is dangerously low, and some in the industry say it’s not likely to change

Concentrates, edibles in high supply - but flower is running dry

VicesSeptember 03, 2019 By Will Brendza

If you’ve noticed the cost and availability of flower going up at your local cannabis dispensary, it isn’t because they’re trying to squeeze you for more cash. It isn’t because they got greedy and decided to jack with the prices of their products.

It’s because Colorado is in the midst of a state-wide flower shortage. A problem that has gotten so serious in the last few months, that at some dispensaries in Denver, customers have to pre order their flower; at others, flower has been pulled from the shelves completely.

It’s an issue that’s complicating things for dispensaries and producers. And everyone seems to have different ideas on what might be the root cause of it.

“We really think it’s a number of factors,” says Lisa Farrimond-Gee, the Director of Marketing and CSR at Lightshade dispensary in Denver.

Lightshade is just one of many dispensaries throughout the state right now, feeling the weight of this flower shortage. They’ve been so affected by it, that they’ve had to put flower on pre-order at the dispensary. And when flower makes up roughly half of your store’s revenue, as Farrimond-Gee says it does at Lightshade, that can be an ominous problem to have.

“Right now there's two people on our inventory staff and literally all they're doing is hunting down flower; constantly buying four pounds here, 20 pounds here, 30 pounds here,” she says. “Literally whatever we can get our hands on and we’re paying whatever they're charging, too. We used to have a lot of negotiating power, obviously because we buy at volume but we don't anymore. The seller has the power right now because of the shortage.”

According to her and others at Lightshade, one of the problems that is likely contributing to this flower shortage is the increasingly stringent quality tests and regulations that the state is implementing. The Colorado Department of Public Health has recently put into effect new mold testing and remediation standards, which has put more pressure on growers.

On top of that, last year was a difficult year to be on the production side of the cannabis industry, says Farrimond-Gee. There was so much flower being produced in Colorado and the price of flower dropped so dramatically that many growers decided that their efforts would be better spent elsewhere.

“If you were a wholesaler it was not a good place to be because the prices were so low,” said Farrimond-Gee. “If those growers would have been able to hang on instead of moving out of the state, which some of them did, they would be making a lot of money right now."

That decreased the number of growers/producers in the state significant significantly, suggests Farrimond-Gee and others at Lightshade. Now, the availability of flower is plummeting and the prices are starting to climb. Before they put their flower on pre-order, Lightshade had to bump their prices from $20 to $32 an eighth.

All of that combined with the facts that last year’s long winter meant that there were more tourists buying cannabis well into the spring, and which also meant outdoor grows had to have a later planting season, created the perfect storm.

“There are so many aspects that are just uncontrollable,” Farrimon-Gee says. “This is kind of an industry-wide crisis that we're in.”

A smaller boutique dispensary out of Boulder (which asked to remain anonymous), suggested that this flower shortage could also have something to do with a lot of Colorado Springs’ outdoor grow operations closing down recently. Apparently, the area was so rife with grow-ops that it became something like a “police state” with tons of big flood lights on all night, and armed security guards prowling everywhere.

“It sounds like the people just got kind of sick and tired of it,” the Boulder source says. “And so they started yanking licenses there to allow people to grow indoors.”

A lot of the cannabis that came from those outdoor grows was B and C quality, which was most often used for concentrates and extracts. With that supply dried up, the supply of flower was significantly strained, as people used other bud for their oils, shatters, salves and edibles.

“I mean we're talking about probably tens of thousands of pounds that are not flooding the market right now from just that source alone,” the source says. “Now people are picking up trim and every other thing they can get their hands on to extract.”

Which is largely why concentrates, edibles, and salves have been unaffected by this shortage — for now.

As the industry scrambles, and dispensaries all over the state vie for their stake of flower, the cost of all this is passed along to the consumers: The People who can’t get their flower, or who have to pay higher prices for it.

And it’s not looking like it’s an issue that will be resolved or even mitigated any time soon. Not according to Farrimond-Gee, at least.

“I don't think that there's any swift solution,” she says. “all of that's going to continue to make the market pretty volatile and unpredictable.”

There’s a sad irony of all this. As Colorado struggles with this flower shortage, Oregon is struggling with a flower overflow. Last year’s harvest in Oregon is anticipated to leave a surplus of more than a billion joints…

If only we could work out some kind of inter-state trade. If only Federal laws allowed for such a thing, maybe Colorado’s cannabis industry wouldn’t be struggling with something like a “flower shortage.”

But that’s a pipe-dream at this point. Something else will have to be done in the meantime, or Colorado’s flower shortage is bound to persist.