Amid a statewide decline in cannabis sales, NuVue Pharma is bucking the trend.
The Pueblo-based medical and recreational marijuana dispensary chain recently opened a location in Cortez, its sixth in Colorado. Next up is an outpost in Gunnison. And soon, the company will make its first out-of-state expansion, with new stores in Albuquerque.
Despite six other local dispensaries to compete against, NuVue decided on Cortez because of the tourism to the area, as well as its proximity to Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
“While Cortez is a smaller town, (we) do see a large amount of traffic traveling through,” said cultivation specialist and Chief Operating Officer Katharine Avery.
But while NuVue expands, the broader Colorado cannabis market is in decline. Since legalization in 2014, overall sales now top $15 billion and have provided $2.5 billion in additional tax revenue for the state. And that’s not including the windfalls that local municipalities have received.
However, there’s a growing fear that the state’s best days are behind it. Last year, sales in Colorado fell 22% to $1.8 billion, according to state data. Those declines have continued into 2023. And Montezuma County is no exception. In August, for example, recreational cannabis sales in the county totaled $1.3 million, a 23% drop from the year prior.
“Being one of the first states to legalize, we’re seeing the compression of the market before other states will,” said Avery, 33. “We will unfortunately see some of the businesses either be consumed by larger brands or go out of business altogether, sell their licenses. Once that happens, the market will stabilize more,” she said.
Legalization in nearby states like New Mexico and Arizona hasn’t helped. For example, at NuVue’s Trinidad location, which sits roughly 20 minutes from the New Mexico border, sales have declined since the state greenlit its own commercial market in 2021, according to Avery.
Neither has stalled efforts at the federal level to legalize cannabis nationally – or even remove some of the financial barriers that dispensaries face.
The law “doesn't allow us regular business deductions that most businesses are able to take advantage of,” said Avery.
If conditions worsen, those most impacted could be smaller, locally owned businesses, rather than larger operations like NuVue that control all aspects of the production and distribution.
“Being vertically integrated, allows us to continue being at the forefront of the market and continue to bring the quality products and good pricing that our customers have come to know and appreciate,” Avery said. It “allows us to compete in a difficult market.”
Founded in 2015 by neurologist Malik Hasan, NuVue sells a wide range of cannabis products, from traditional flower to THC-infused topical creams and massage oils. The company also works on cannabis-related medical research, including projects with the Colorado State University of Pueblo focused on issues like PTSD.
NuVue’s Cortez location is cash only. It’s open Sunday-Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.