Cannabis a multi-million-dollar tax windfall for Colorado

A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's Day in Northglenn, Colo., on Dec. 31, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The numbers were not as high as expected, but are still well in the black, as Colorado announced the revenues raised from its first month of legal recreational marijuana sales.

According to data released Monday by the state's Department of Revenue, Colorado brought in more than $2 million in taxes on sales from recreational cannabis in January. That number includes over $1.4 million from a 10 percent retail marijuana state tax, plus nearly $417,000 collected as part of the state's regular 2.9 percent sales tax. Roughly $195,000 was collected for the month through a 15 percent retail marijuana excise tax, with the proceeds going toward the construction of public schools in the state.

Total taxes, licenses and fees for January for sales of both medicinal and recreational marijuana in Colorado came to over $3.5 million.

Those figures, meanwhile, are reportedly below earlier estimates for recreational sales in Colorado.

Twenty states, along with Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana, with voters in Colorado and Washington state voting in 2012 to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults. Consumers in Colorado started purchasing recreational cannibis on Jan. 1, and recreational sales in Washington are expected to start later this year.

Cannabis advocates say the Colorado data prove the marijuana's industry's viability as a legal source of tax revenue. "The month of January showed the world that taking marijuana off the streets and putting it behind a taxed, regulated counter can be done professionally, productively and prosperously," Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a statement.

"Now it's time for Congress to reconcile outdated federal laws with those of states like Colorado." he added, "that have decided to opt out of the failed experiment of marijuana prohibition."

A group of cannabis industry advocates is scheduled to meet congressional representatives from California, Oregon and Colorado on Capitol Hill Thursday to discuss banking and taxation issues.

This year could end up being pivotal for marijuana laws and regulations in the U.S. According to NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, nearly 30 states and the District of Columbia are considering legislation this year to reform their cannabis laws.

Of that number, 14 states are reportedly mulling marijuana legalization. As a result, state officials are closely watching Colorado, as it breaks new ground in generating cannabis-based tax revenue.

"Colorado's going to help the nation learn what works and what doesn't," Pat Oglesby, a former staffer with the Joint Congressional Committee on Taxation, told The Associated Press. Oglesby is also the founder of the Center for New Revenue, a North Carolina-based non-profit that is researching the potential of marijuana-related taxes.

  • Bruce Kennedy

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