The state of Colorado has generated more than $500 million in tax revenue since legalized recreational marijuana sales began in 2014.
Colorado’s marijuana industry has generated more than half a billion dollars in tax revenue since it implemented its recreational marijuana market in 2014. According to a new report from public affairs and lobbying firm VS Strategies and data from the Colorado Department of Revenue, the taxes were collected from more than $3.6 billion medical and recreational marijuana sales through May 2017.
“It’s a meaningful milestone,” said Brian Vicente, co-author of the 2012 recreational marijuana ballot measure. “Colorado continues to be an example for the world.”
The VS report also acknowledges that taxes have increased exponentially every year since recreational sales in Colorado started in 2014. The state made $76 million in the program’s first year, $135 million the next, and $198 million from $1.3 billion in sales in 2016. Total marijuana sales through the first five months of 2017 are up roughly 27 percent from the year prior and have neared $620 million, already bringing in $96 million in revenue from states and fees.
To mark the occasion of reaching $500 million in revenue, VP Strategies’ Mason Tvert and Vicente presented state Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont) with a commemorative jumbo check for a half-billion dollars.
“Legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana for adult use has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue for Colorado,” Tvert said. “Marijuana tax money has been used to improve a wide range of programs and services. It is funding everything from school construction to substance abuse treatment to fighting homelessness. While it might not fix every school, or help every person who needs it, it is having a significant and positive impact on our community.”
Colorado cannabis sales reached $127.7 million in May, marking the 12th consecutive month that sales have surpassed $100 million. For the month, recreational sales accounted for $90.1 million and those from medical marijuana hit over $37.5 million.
“I think that $100 million a month [in sales] are the new norm,” Bethany Gomez, director of research for market research firm Brightfield Group, told The Cannabist.
Colorado, the first state in the U.S. to legalize adult use cannabis, uses over half of its marijuana revenue for school-related construction and projects. The remaining funds go to road construction, hospitals, addressing homelessness, substance abuse programs, and regulating the program. Earlier this summer, the Legislature passed a bill raising the retail cannabis sales tax from 10 percent to 15 percent. This sales tax is on top of a 15 percent marijuana excise tax, a 2.9 percent “tangible personal property” sales tax, and any local sales and excise tariffs.
“Marijuana has become the thread that holds our state budget together,” said Singer.
Recreational sales have gradually grown to dominate the state’s industry. In May 2014, adult use sales made up 40 percent of the month’s total cannabis sales. In May 2017, adult use sales accounted for 70 percent. Medical marijuana sales have remained relatively the same since 2014.
Colorado is one of eight states to legalize recreational marijuana. A market research report published earlier this year suggests legalization could expand to all 50 U.S. states by 2021.