Colorado’s legal cannabis industry has reached a major milestone, providing the state with $500 million in revenue since the start of commercial sales in 2014. This does not include additional revenue collected at the local level by city and county governments.
A recently released analysis of state data by Denver-based VS Strategies traces the flow from the state’s five main revenue streams (the 15 percent excise tax and 20 percent special tax contributed the bulk of the funds) and maps out how the money is being distributed across the state.
According to the report, revenue currently appears to be pouring in at a similar rate to last year: Cannabis sales for 2017 so far have already surpassed total sales for 2014 and are well on the way to something comparable to the $198,522,164 collected in 2016.
The allocation of cannabis revenue broke down as follows: 51.3 percent to K-12 public schools, 14.2 percent to substance abuse and prevention programs, 11.9 percent to covering regulatory costs, 10 percent to surveys, research and public education, 8.4 percent to other public health programs and 2.6 percent to criminal justice and public safety, with the final 1.6 percent going to youth services programs.
State legislator Rep. Jonathan Singer, a former youth counselor who’s taken a lead role in promoting Colorado’s legal cannabis industry as a revenue stream for social services, joined Lauren Arnold, Executive Director of Adoption Exchange — an adoption and foster service organization that recently received more than $3 million in cannabis revenue through the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program — at a press conference to speak on the historic milestone for the state.
At the presser, Mason Tvert — former communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, now with VS Strategies — and cannabis attorney Brian Vicente, who were both instrumental in the 2012 campaign for regulated and taxed commercial cannabis sales, handed Singer a giant “check” for $500 million.
“Legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana for adult use has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue for Colorado,” Tvert said. “Marijuana tax money has been used to improve a wide range of programs and services. It is funding everything from school construction to substance abuse treatment to fighting homelessness. While it might not fix every school or help every person who needs it, it is having a significant and positive impact on our community.”
Tvert added that he’s excited for the milestone and where the money is going.
“We hope lawmakers will continue to distribute these funds responsibly and not lose sight of what voters intended when they opted to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol,” he said.
At the local level, cities are spending their piece of the pie in various ways: Last month Pueblo County used $420,000 in local revenue to provide college scholarships to 210 local students; In Aurora, $1.5 million went to fight homelessness, with additional funds going to improve roads and help pay for a new recreation center.
And over in Edgewater, they’re literally rebuilding the town: Pot taxes accounted for 20 percent of the city budget in 2016 and that revenue is being used to repave all of its streets, fix miles of sidewalks and help fund the construction of a new city complex.
TELL US, what could increased revenue do for your city or town?