- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Colorado’s legal marijuana shops set a monthly sales record in July by moving roughly $122.7 million in medical and recreational cannabis products, according to revenue data released by the state on Monday.

Dispensaries sold $83.8 million in recreational weed products and $38.9 million in medical marijuana during the month — a 27 percent increase over July 2015 and around $5 million more than the previous monthly record established in April.

Combined with sales figures from the first half of the year, Colorado’s state-sanctioned dispensaries have sold a total of $720.4 million in marijuana from Jan. 1 to the end of July, the Denver Post’s Cannabist reported. In turn, the state has pulled in nearly $105.8 million in taxes and fees to put toward educational programs and other endeavors.

Adam Orens, a founding partner of the Marijuana Policy Group, suggested that the warm weather and subsequent surge of tourists helped the state set a sales record this summer.

“That’s when I think more people — Colorado residents plus tourists — people are just out and about,” he told The Cannabist. “There are backyard parties, it’s events of all different kinds, concerts, festivals. I believe it drives more people to consume more alcohol and marijuana.”

Legislation that went into effect in June and allows out-of-state visitors to buy up to 1 ounce of pot while in Colorado may have played a part in the surge as well because visitors were previously restricted to purchasing only a quarter-ounce at a time, The Cannabist reported.

But only 2½ years since Colorado became the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, Mr. Orens said, he expects the upward trajectory will eventually stabilize.

“Every year, we’ve had more sales than the year before; at the same time, you’ve seen prices in general declining,” he said. “This rapid growth represents people coming from the black market into the regulated market, and that growth is going to be fast, but it’s going to be finite.”

Denver’s district attorney said, however, that illegal pot sales have hardly plummeted since the state began allowing dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana in January 2014.

Speaking at an event Tuesday in Nevada — one of nine states where a marijuana initiative will appear on November’s ballot — District Attorney Mitchell Morrissey told attendees that “the black market is alive and well,” Lahontan Valley News reported.

If approved by voters in Nevada during the general election, an initiative to regulate and tax marijuana would allow the state to establish a framework for establishing a state-sanctioned cannabis industry not unlike Colorado’s. Similar measures that would legalize recreational marijuana will be on ballots in Arizona, California, Maine and Massachusetts, while medicinal marijuana programs will be considered by voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota.

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

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