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Colorado Pot Sales Up Slightly in Second Month of Retail Weed

The state saw a slight uptick in revenues from legal pot, though most of the money surprisingly came from medical marijuana.

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By Victoria Kim

04/11/14

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Colorado collected about $4.1 million from medical and recreational marijuana taxes and fees in February, a slight increase from January, according to figures released by the Colorado Department of Revenue on Tuesday. In January, when the sale of recreational marijuana officially began, the state collected $3.5 million.

Surprisingly, most of the money came from medical marijuana sales, despite the opening of recreational pot retailers on January 1. The uncertainty of the marijuana market made Gov. John Hickenlooper scale back his planned budget for the millions of dollars in projected marijuana taxes and fees. He originally predicted the state would collect $67 million and $134 million for the fiscal year beginning in July, but has since reduced this estimate by more than $20 million. Hickenlooper proposed spending the money on youth harm prevention, police training to detect stoned drivers, and a pilot project to study marijuana use during pregnancy.

Last year, Colorado voters approved pot taxes of 10 percent sales taxes and 15 percent excise taxes, in addition to regular sales taxes. Voters decided to allocate the first $40 million of recreational pot excise taxes collected to go toward school construction, with the rest of the money to be appropriated by lawmakers. Since revenues from marijuana have been difficult to predict, future estimates remain uncertain.

“It’s impossible to know, based on these first two months, how much revenue they’ll be in the future,” said Natalie Mullis, chief economist for the state’s Legislative Council, which provides the state with revenue forecasts.  

Lawmakers are being cautious about spending money that hasn’t materialized yet. Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) asked, “What is the level of urgency and threat that makes us want to hurry up and spend the money before it even comes in the door?”

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