Colorado reports $2 million in pot taxes in first month of sales

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DENVER — Colorado made roughly $2 million in marijuana taxes in January, state revenue officials reported Monday in the first accounting of the recreational pot business.

Employees help customers at the crowded sales counter inside Medicine Man marijuana retail store in Denver. More than $14 million in pot was sold in Colorado in January.  BRENNAN LINSLEY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Employees help customers at the crowded sales counter inside Medicine Man marijuana retail store in Denver. More than $14 million in pot was sold in Colorado in January.

The tax total reported by the state Department of Revenue indicates $14.02 million in recreational pot was sold. The state collected roughly $2.01 million in taxes.
Colorado legalized pot in 2012, amd commercial sale began in January. Washington state sales begin this year.

The pot taxes come from 12.9 percent sales taxes and 15 percent excise taxes. Voters who approved the taxes last year declared that the first $40 million must go to school construction; the rest will be spent by state lawmakers.

Colorado has about 160 state-licensed recreational marijuana stores. Local governments also have the ability to levy additional pot sales taxes if they wish.

Monday’s tax release intensified lobbying over how Colorado should spend pot money. Budget-writers expect the marijuana industry to be volatile for several years, making lawmakers nervous about how to spend the windfall. They joke that plenty of interests have their hands out to get some money.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has already sent the Legis­la­ture a detailed $134 million proposal for spending recreational and medical marijuana money, including new spending on anti-drug messaging to children and more advertising discouraging driving while high.

State police chiefs have asked for more money, too.

“The whole world wants to belly up to this trough,” said Sen. Pat Steadman, a Denver Dem­ocrat who serves on the budget-writing committee.
Other countries also are watching Colorado, which has the world’s first fully regulated recreational marijuana market. The Netherlands has legal sales of pot but does not allow growing or distribution. Uruguay’s marijuana program is under development.

Colorado’s pot revenue picture is further complicated by the state’s unique budget constraints, known as the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights not only requires voter approval for tax increases, it limits budget-writers when those taxes earn more than the figure posed to voters. Last year’s pot vote guessed that the taxes would produce $70 million a year, and it’s not clear what lawmakers can do with tax money that exceeds that figure.

Colorado’s JBC plans a Wednesday briefing with lawyers to lay out their options for spending pot taxes beyond $70 million.

“There probably is a tendency to want to just grab on to this revenue from marijuana and feed my own pet projects, and I don’t think it’s going to be that simple,” said Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs and another JBC member.

Colorado’s 2014-15 budget is under debate now and does not include any anticipated recreational marijuana taxes.

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oldredneckman96 03/11/14 - 02:40 am

Then why did Colorado have to get a $1Million Federal grant to put out a PSA begging the stoners to stay off the highway? We are paying the price for the ignorance of Colorado here in the rest of the US. At least most of the US does not have the problems Colorado will have, so if we contribute a little to keep the drug addicts there, that might not be such a bad deal.

jimmymac 03/12/14 - 02:15 pm

The money generated from pot sales will pale in comparison to the costs associated with addiction. People who think Marijuana is harmless don't know what they're talking about. The state will be full of stoners who won't want to work and will claim disability because of their addiction.

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