- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2017

Colorado has collected more than $500 million in marijuana taxes since becoming the first state in the nation to legalize recreational weed, a cannabis consulting firm said Wednesday, surpassing previous expectations several times over barely three years after beginning retail pot sales.

Marijuana taxes earned Colorado a total of $506,143,635 as of May 31, 2017, or an average of about $12.65 million a month ever since the state began recreational weed sales at the start of 2014, according to Colorado Department of Revenue statistics cited in a report produced by VS Strategies, a Denver-based consulting firm.

About 51 percent of the tax revenue was allocated toward educational purposes, including $117.9 million used to fund school construction projects, while another 14.1 percent went towards substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, the report said.

“Marijuana tax money has been used to improve a wide range of programs and services,” said Mason Tvert of VS Strategies. “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 voters were the first in the country to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2012, and the state’s first licensed retail dispensaries opened their doors 14 months later after policymakers put in place a framework for regulating weed and taxing it at nearly 30 percent, including a 2.9 percent sales tax, a 15 percent excise and a 10 percent special sales tax.

Prior to recreational sales starting Jan. 1, 2014, analysts expected cannabis would earn the state substantially less than the half-billion dollars already collected. An economic analysis of a study funded by the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance in 2012, for example, predicted Colorado could collect upwards of $60 million by 2017; state analysts, meanwhile, predicted sales would generate between $5 million and $22 million in annual tax revenue.

Colorado has since collected $76 million in marijuana taxes in 2014, $135 million in 2015 and $198 million in 2016, the report said. Recreational sales through May 2017 already earned the state about $96 million, it’s authors added, putting Colorado on pace to potentially have its best year yet with respect to marijuana revenue.

“Marijuana has become the thread that holds our state budget together,” Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Singer said of $500 million in marijuana taxes collected by Colorado, The Cannabist reported Wednesday.

The half-billion earned by Colorado so far includes taxes generated by medical marijuana sales, which was legalized by the state in 2000 and taxed at only 2.9 percent. Taken together, recreational and medical marijuana sales in Colorado last year surpassed $1 billion, according to previously released statistics.

Four other states — Oregon, Alaska, Nevada and Washington — currently allow dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana, and California, Maine and Massachusetts are all expected to follow suit in 2018.

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