Legal marijuana continues to bring home the bacon in Colorado.
In June the weed industry sold $24.7 million worth of marijuana, a new record and a 19 percent increase from the month before. This will add even more money to state tax coffers.
Since the start of the year, when the first pot shops opened in Colorado, the state has pulled in $29.8 million, according to figures released by officials in early August. That includes taxes, license fees, and other sources of revenue from the cannabis industry.
The market for recreational marijuana is approaching the same size as the medical market. And it’s set to send more tax money to the state: Recreational weed is taxed at 25 percent while MMJ is taxed at just 2.9 percent.
At the start of the year, medical pot brought in nearly twice the taxes generated by recreational weed. In June, medical taxes amounted to less than 20 percent more than taxes on recreational dope. That number is steadily shrinking.
The increasing earnings in Colorado are generally in line with earlier predictions. A report issued last year estimated the recreational cannabis industry would generate roughly $70 million a year in taxes and fees.
In February Gov. John Hickenlooper sent the legislature a budget that projected a $98 million take in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which started in July.
So far, 136 licenses have been issued to recreational marijuana stores, and about 120 of those shops are open for business. The first round of licenses went only to existing medical cannabis dispensaries. The state will consider a second set of applications by business owners who aren’t part of the medical industry.
Colorado voters legalized marijuana for recreational use in the 2012 election, as did voters in Washington State. The first Colorado pot shops opened Jan. 1, and the news since has been almost entirely positive.
The industry continues to generate massive revenue, the price of legal weed is dropping rapidly as more stores have opened, and demand for it is only likely to grow as a result.
For example, an ounce of good weed initially cost more than $400 on average at the shops that opened in January. An ounce on the black market is typically at least $100 cheaper. Now, however, the average price of a legal ounce is about $250 plus tax.
It remains to be seen how well the new program in Washington will work. Shops there opened July 8, and several quickly ran out of product. But the local industry still managed to sell $3.8 million worth of weed in July, compared with $14 million during the first month of legal pot in Colorado.
The difference is big, especially considering that Washington is a more populous state than Colorado. But fewer stores opened in the early days of Washington’s program, and there was so little pot available that it was initially impossible to meet demand.