Colorado gets $2M in marijuana taxes in first month of legalization

State Department of Revenue recorded $14.02 million in recreational marijuana sales in January

Colorado legalized pot in 2012, but the commercial sale of marijuana didn't begin until January.
Brennan Linsley/AP

Colorado collected roughly $2 million in marijuana taxes in January, the first month it was legally sold for recreational use in the state, revenue officials said Monday.

The tax total reported by the state Department of Revenue indicates $14.02 million worth of recreational pot was sold. The state collected roughly $2.01 million in taxes.

Colorado legalized recreational pot in 2012, but commercial sales didn't begin until January. Washington state has also legalized recreational use, and sales are expected to begin in the coming months.

The pot revenue in Colorado come from a 12.9 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax, approved by voters last year. The first $40 million of the excise tax must go to school construction; the rest may be spent at state lawmakers' discretion.

Colorado has about 160 state-licensed recreational marijuana stores, though local licensing kept some locations from opening in January. Local governments may levy additional pot sales taxes if they wish.

Monday's tax announcement intensified lobbying over how Colorado should spend its pot money. Budget writers expect the nascent marijuana industry to be extremely volatile for several years, making lawmakers nervous about how to spend the windfall.

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 kids 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 state Sen. Pat Steadman, who serves on Colorado's Joint Budget Committee.

Other states and countries are watching Colorado, which has the world's first fully legal regulated recreational marijuana market. The Netherlands has legal sales of pot but does not allow growing or distribution. Uruguay's marijuana program is still under development.

The Associated Press

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