DENVER, Colorado — Colorado’s legal marijuana business boomed last year, with total sales in the state nearing the $1 billion mark, according to current estimates.
Official figures for marijuana sales in December won’t be available until next month, but Ricardo Baca, a staff writer for The Denver Post’s The Cannabist, reported on Jan. 13 that total marijuana sales, including for both recreational and medicinal purposes, had reached $895 million by November.
With cannabis taxed in three ways by the state, including two different kinds of sales tax, Colorado had earned $121 million through that month. That figure represents an especially important windfall for education, Baca noted:
“Perhaps the most-watched figure in the state’s marijuana tax data is the 15 percent excise tax, which is earmarked for school construction projects. In November that tax brought in more than $3 million, up from $2.6 million in October. So far in 2015, those school-bound tax revenues have topped $31.4 million — besting that tax’s 2014 totals of $13.3 million.”
In September, The Guardian reported that tax revenues were expected to reach $125 million, a figure almost double the $44 million earned in 2014. That means taxes on legal marijuana are more profitable for Colorado than taxes on alcohol sales, according to Time magazine:
“Colorado collected almost $70 million in marijuana taxes during [the fiscal year that ended in June], nearly double the $42 million collected from alcohol taxes.”
By comparison, legal marijuana sales reached just $700 million in 2014. Given the intense growth, some sources had forecast a total of $1 billion in marijuana sales for 2015. However, Baca estimated last week that the final figures might fall a bit short, thanks in part to a small downturn during October:
“While we expect an upturn in cannabis sales from November to December 2015 — perhaps somewhat mirroring the month-to-month increase we witnessed in December 2014, when medical pot sales jumped 15 percent and recreational marijuana sales skipped up 12 percent — we don’t expect the 30 percent month-over-month spike that would be required for the 2015 totals to top $1 billion.”
Johnny Green, a writer for The Weed Blog, speculated on Jan. 14 that growth in the Centennial State may slow as other states move to legalize cannabis:
“It will be interesting to see how Colorado’s industry numbers are once Oregon’s recreational marijuana industry is fully up and running, which is expected to be by the end of 2016. October sales in Colorado took a dip, which is also when limited recreational sales started in Oregon.”
Green emphasized the importance of cannabis sales for Colorado’s economy, whatever the final total:
“December would have to have a significant uptick in sales in order to cross the one billion dollar mark, but even if that doesn’t happen, Colorado’s marijuana industry had a stellar year. Can you name one state in the country that couldn’t use a billion dollar industry that largely came out of nowhere?”