Colorado makes $3.5M in pot revenue in January

11:21 PM, Mar 10, 2014   |    comments
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A long line of buyers trails from a store selling marijuana in Pueblo West, Colo., Jan. 1, 2014. (AP)



(USA TODAY) -- Colorado collected more than $3.5 million in taxes and fees from both recreational and medical marijuana sales in January, according to figures released today by the state's Department of Revenue.

Of that amount, more than $2 million came from recreational pot.

Colorado became the first state where recreational pot went on sale on Jan. 1. Washington is the only other state with legal recreational pot, which is expected to go on sale this summer.

The first month of recreational sales falls in line with expectations, said Barbara Brohl, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, in a statement.

"We expect clear revenue patterns will emerge by April and plan to incorporate this data into future forecasts," Brohl said.

The department said it expects variability in revenue collections during the initial months of sales, due to factors like local approval of licenses and the potential that the novelty of legal pot could wear off.

By the end of January, 59 businesses had filed a tax return for recreational pot to the state, according to the Department of Revenue. But the number of businesses offering recreational pot is growing. As of mid-February, Colorado had 163 retail stores.

Colorado voters approved a 15% excise tax on marijuana producers to pay for school construction, and a 10% special sales tax on consumers. The state legislature has the option to increase the special sales tax to as much as 15% in future years. On top of that, consumers are subject to the 2.9% state sales tax, as well as any local sales tax.

MORE: How high is too high for Colorado pot tax?

Last month, a budget proposal from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper estimated that total pot sales next fiscal year would be about $610 million.

The governor predicted sales and excises taxes next fiscal year would produce about $98 million in revenue for the state -- well above the $70 million annual estimate in the legalization measure approved by voters.

The priorities for spending those millions will include youth use prevention, substance abuse treatment and public health, according to Hickenlooper's proposal.

The first days of sales in Colorado were met with hours-long lines and worldwide media attention.

"Obviously people knew there would be large interest, but I think it was bigger than even people expected and it sustained longer than people suspected," Taylor West, deputy director of National Cannabis Industry Association, told USA TODAY a few weeks after sales began.

Toni Fox, owner of 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, said her dispensary had $40,000 in marijuana sales in the first day. Before Jan. 1, a typical day saw $1,000 in medical marijuana sales.

Fox said she has had to increase her staff from six employees to over 20 within the first month to keep up with demand.

"The future is so bright," Fox said.

By Jolie Lee, USA TODAY Network


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