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Colorado marijuana revenue surpasses $500 million

DENVER – Colorado has received more than half a billion dollars in tax revenue from marijuana sales since recreational sales became legal in 2014.

The benchmark was made in May, but was analyzed in a report released on Wednesday by VS Strategies in Denver based on publicly available data from the Colorado Department of Revenue.

The report shows that the taxes and fees generated by the sales have continued to increase in Colorado. In 2014, sales totaled $76 million. It went up to $135 million in 2015 and $198 million in 2016.

Through May 2017, sales have already totaled around $96 million, according to the report.

On Wednesday, Mason Tvert and Brian Vicente of VS Strategies presented Rep. Jonathan Singer with a check for a half-billion dollars to mark the occasion.

Left-to-right: Lauren Arnold of The Adoption Exchange, Brian Vicente of VS Strategies, Mason Tvert of VS Strategies, Rep. Jonathan Singer, Chuck Smith of Colorado Leads, Kristi Kelly of Marijuana Industry Group (Photo: VS Strategies)

“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.”

“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,” Tvert said.

Tvert added that the funds raised by marijuana sales “is having a significant and positive impact on our community.”

According to the report, 51.3 percent of the funds have gone to schools. While others have gone to things like criminal justice and substance abuse programs.

The city of Aurora has allocated $1.5 million in cannabis tax revenue to help fight homelessness in the city as well as improve roads and help build a new recreation center, according to the VS Strategies report.

However, Smart Approaches to Marijuana says that the marijuana taxes “do not even make a dent” in the cost of schools in Colorado.

“Like the tobacco industry before it, the Colorado marijuana lobby is touting marijuana as the panacea for every contemporary challenge Colorado faces,” said Kevin Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “The truth is, the health and safety costs caused by the commercialization of marijuana far outweigh any revenues collected.”

“And even viewed solely in the context of Colorado’s educational needs, pot revenue is not newsworthy. The Colorado Department of Education indicates their schools require about $18 billion with a B in capital construction funds alone. Marijuana taxes do not even make a dent in this gap,” Sabet said.

Sabet adds that “Colorado faces a $700 million state budget deficit” and that “it is rising, not falling.”

“The state faces a thriving black market for marijuana despite legalization, and rising sales of alcohol,” Sabet said. “Waving around an oversized novelty check makes pot lobbyists feel good, but it does not help the families and communities who have to deal with the costs of marijuana commercialization.”