Marijuana advocates tout ‘major milestone’: Colorado hits half a billion in cannabis tax revenue

Marijuana advocates are trumpeting a Colorado milestone: More than $500 million in revenue for the state since recreational cannabis sales started in 2014.

The medical and recreational cannabis tax revenue benchmark — achieved in May 2017 — was hailed Wednesday in a new report from VS Strategies, the new public affairs and lobbying firm affiliated with cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg.

The report highlights publicly available marijuana tax data from the Colorado Department of Revenue as well as how some of those funds have been spent or allocated on both the state and local levels.

VS Strategies is expected to host a news conference at noon today to discuss the “major milestone.” Scheduled speakers include Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, who sponsored a few marijuana-related bills in this past legislative session; Lauren Arnold, chief executive of Adoption Exchange; and industry members, VS Strategies officials said.

Through May 2017, Colorado marijuana shops have sold upward of $3.6 billion of medical and recreational cannabis flower, edibles and concentrates, according to The Cannabist’s calculations of state tax data.

The taxes and fees from those sales totaled $76 million in 2014, $135 million in 2015, $198 million in 2016, and $96 million through May of 2017, according to Colorado tax data.

That money is distributed to a host of different areas, including school construction grants, substance abuse programs; marijuana enforcement; and youth mentoring services.

Economists, notably Chris Stiffler of the Colorado Fiscal Institute, have frequently cautioned that marijuana tax collections represent a sliver of the state’s $10 billion general fund and cannot solve perennial budget woes.

Economists and state budget officials are anticipating that marijuana industry sales will continue to grow, but eventually plateau.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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