- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2017

Colorado’s legal marijuana dispensaries sold $1.3 billion worth of pot during 2016, according to tax data released Thursday, signaling the state’s best year since legalizing recreational weed in 2013.

Statistics released by the Colorado Department of Revenue this week indicate the state’s budding marijuana industry officially broke the billion-dollar threshold for the first time in 2016, taking into account roughly $875 million in recreational weed sales last year in addition to about $438 million in medicinal sales.

Colorado became the first state in the country to legalize marijuana in November 2012, and its first licensed recreational dispensaries opened to the public in January 2014. Those pot shops sold $699.2 million worth of recreational and medical weed during their first year of operation and generated around $996.2 million in sales during 2015.

Last year’s record-shattering run includes eight months where marijuana sales topped $100 million, the likes of which enabled Colorado’s pot shops to move $376.6 million worth of product between July and September 2016.

Despite year after year growth, however, Colorado’s marijuana dispensaries may be facing competition before long from a growing number of states that have begun implementing similar recreational programs of their own.

Other states have since voted to legalize marijuana since Coloradans started the trend in 2013, including Oregon, Alaska and Washington where similar recreational dispensaries have since sprouted up.

Coupled with the success last year of ballot measures passed in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada, a growing number of states have given the green light to soon implement recreational weed programs that could ultimately rival Colorado’s currently thriving cannabis industry.

“Colorado has had a really good run, being the first mover,” Miles Light, an economist with the Marijuana Policy Group, told The Denver Post this week. “Now, as other states legalize, some of these external benefits that are occurring are going to be eroded.”

Nonetheless, the erosion might not be immediate if at all. Mr. Light noted that despite voters in eight states having passed pro-weed ballot measures last year with respect to either medical or recreational marijuana programs, none of those states are expected to have an regulatory framework in place prior to 2018.

Colorado’s $1.3 billion in legal weed sales last year will yield around $199 million in taxes and fees for the state, the likes of which is typically allocated toward school construction and other community projects, The Denver Post reported.

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

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