Where all the pot taxes go

Data Desk

A man smokes a joint during a demonstration for the decriminalization of cannabis. (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

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DENVER (KDVR) — 2020 was a record breaking year for marijuana sales, and when looking at the taxes it appears the money coming into the state is going where legalizers wanted it to go.

The state broke $2 billion in marijuana sales in 2020, and the Colorado Office of State Budget and Planning estimates that will lead to an incoming tax revenue of $361.4 million for FY 2020-21.

The Marijuana Tax Cash Fund is the destination for half of the taxes the state takes from the industry, which was first legalized in Colorado in 2012. The other half is doled out between local and state governments, either for earmarked causes such as education or for general funding.

Dozens of yearly appropriations are taken from the fund, but ten programs account for the majority of money that’s disbursed, mainly directed to drug abuse, education and crime.

The Marijuana Tax Cash Fund is more or less open for whatever needs come up, but appropriations records show its main uses line up with the legalization rhetoric of 2012.

By far, the biggest share of the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund goes into the Colorado Department of Human Services. Programs in this department account for roughly one-third of the fund’s spending from year to year.

Of this, three-fourths is taken by programs for substance abuse, mental health services for criminal offenders and criminal diversion programs that keep first-time offenders out of the corrections system.

Ten programs accounted for an average 60% of the total fund’s spending between 2017 and 2020.

More of the fund’s money goes into a subsidized housing grant program than anything else. The others concern substance abuse, marijuana education, criminal diversion or education.

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