Despite the brouhaha over legal cannabis in Colorado, one fact remains certain: The marijuana industry is becoming a major financial force and has hit the jackpot in tax revenue.
According to recent figures tabulated by the state Department of Revenue, licensed and regulated marijuana stores in Colorado sold a little more than $996 million of recreational and medial cannabis in 2015, a nearly 50 percent increase from the previous year. Industry advocates say that amounts to a booming $1 billion industry.
“I think it is ethical to round that up to a billion,” said cannabis industry attorney Chritian Sederberg, according to an article in The Denver Post.
Colorado recreational marijuana sales began on Jan. 1, 2014. Prior to that, the state had several hundred medicinal outlets, which stated opening their doors around 2009 when the Obama administration hinted that it may relax the enforcement rules for states that had previously approved the use medicinal cannabis for certain patients. However, the state and many local governments have imposed steep restrictions and moratoriums on these types of businesses.
From a tax perspective, the industry has been booming. Colorado collected more than $135 million in marijuana taxes and fees in 2015. Out of this, more than $35 million is earmarked for school construction projects.
The revenue picture shows that pot sales definitely increased on a monthly basis throughout 2015, compared to the previous year. In 2014, marijuana sales reached a $573 million level, a figure that was easily surpassed in the last year.
Still, even with a booming tax potential, the local region only has one municipality where recreational cannabis shops are permitted. And that is in Manitou Springs, which features two legal retail outlets..
However, the area abounds with a number of medicinal outlets, including two in the Ute Pass and Teller County region, and a wide assortment of shops in Colorado Springs.
As of Feb. 1 2016, Colorado had 517 medical marijuana licensed outlets and 426 retail stores. The vast majority of the cannabis retail hubs are located in the Denver area.
Many lawmakers, though, still aren’t keen on opening the doors any further for medicinal or recreational marijuana outlets, even though voters have approved pro-cannabis measures through separate ballot issues. In fact, 75 percent of the government jurisdictions in Colorado have said no to locating any retail marijuana operations in their towns and communities. These restrictions are permitted through Amendment 64, the pro-retail marijuana law.
Laws banning recreational outlets have been approved by the Teller and El Paso County commissioners and by the Colorado Springs, Woodland Park and Cripple Creek city councils.
However, in some cases these bans only got approved by narrow tallies. These bans could get reversed at a later date.
Plus, on a national level, retail marijuana could become a growing trend. In 2016, it is estimated that at least half a dozen states will vote on proposed laws legalizing recreational marijuana on a limited basis.