Colorado’s drug dealers must be bummed. Everyone knew the weed business was a lucrative one, but nobody knew quite how good until the Colorado Department of Revenue came out with their 2015 stats this week. Turns out that before Colorado legalized medical marijuana a few years ago and went full legal in 2014, those selling bud on the d-low were sitting on a billion dollar industry.
$996,184,788, to be exact, is how much Coloradans spent on legal cannabis last year, but as one cannabis industry lawyer told The Cannabist, “I think it’s ethical to round that up to a billion.”
The 2015 totals beat down the state’s already impressive sales from 2014. In that year, Colorado pulled in $699 million. But 2015 saw cannabis cash rise by more than a third. That was partially the result of an increase in the number of pot shops and fewer municipalities restricting the sale of cannabis.
Sales went up month to month over the year as well. From November to December, recreational cannabis retail increased by over 21 percent to a total of $62.2, while medical sales rose roughly 32 percent to a total of $39.1 million.
“These are amazing numbers,” said Steve Fox, an attorney who helped draft the weed legalization legislation Amendment 64, “especially on the tax revenue side.”
State revenue from cannabis sales grew too, obviously. Through taxes and license fees, Colorado took in $135 million last year, well above the $76 million it made in 2014. Of this year’s earnings, more than $35 million is being set aside for school construction.
Colorado cannabis is taxed in three different ways. First, there’s a 2.9 percent sales tax (the same applied to all goods). Second, a special marijuana sales tax of 10 percent. Third, a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana purchases, all of which is directed toward schools.
“It’s remarkable that less than seven years ago, all of that money was being spent in the underground market,” Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project told The Cannabist. “Clearly there’s a large demand for marijuana, and we’re now seeing that demand being met by legitimate businesses that are answering to authorities instead of criminals who answer to nobody.”