- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Legal marijuana sales in Colorado surpassed $1 billion during the first 10 months of 2016, according to newly released figures from the state’s Department of Revenue, signaling the best year yet since dispensaries began selling recreational weed in 2014.

Colorado’s state-regulated pot shops sold a total of $1.09 billion in marijuana and marijuana-related products between January 1 and the end of October, the department said this week, officially exceeding the billion-dollar threshold for the first time ever.

While the Revenue Department isn’t expected to announce annual sales numbers until February 2017, the state’s hundreds of legal dispensaries have so far sold $720.7 million and $371.4 million in recreational and medical marijuana, respectively, with two months left to take into account.

“We think we’ll see $1.3 billion in sales revenue this year,” marijuana industry attorney Christian Sederberg of Vicente Sederberg LLC told The Denver Post’s Cannabist this week.

Colorado implemented a first-in-the-nation framework for recreational marijuana sales following passage of Amendment 64 in 2012. The state’s first retail shops opened up on Jan. 1, 2014, and by the end of the year had sold around $700 million in recreational and medical weed. Marijuana sales spikes the following year to $996 million, setting expectations early for 2016 to be a record breaking year.

This year’s sales have already allowed the state to rake in $49.7 million in excise tax revenue, the Cannabist reported. As required by Amendment 64, $40 million of that will automatically be earmarked towards school construction projects across the state. Leftovers will be allocated to the state’ public school fund.

Widely considered a litmus test by other states, Colorado’s unprecedented recreational marijuana program has helped spur the establishment of similar systems elsewhere within the United States.

Ballot measures calling for the decriminalizing of marijuana passed in four states last month, paving the way for retail shops to eventually operate in California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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