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‘We have to sell more weed!’: Colorado county issues first-ever marijuana tax figures

Published time: February 26, 2014 03:05
Edited time: February 28, 2014 10:50
Reuters/Rick Wilking

Reuters/Rick Wilking

A recreational marijuana store located in southern Colorado became the first business of its kind in the state to announce the tax totals from the new industry that pot advocates say will be a boon for state education and struggling local economies.

Finance officials in Pueblo County, the tenth most populated county in Colorado, announced that the two marijuana shops there have earned approximately $1 million in sales in January. That sum has produced approximately $56,000 in local sales taxes.

Pueblo County is the only community between Denver, Colorado and the New Mexico state line where recreational marijuana stores are permitted by law. Two shops were opened in January, the first month in which recreational marijuana was legal in Colorado, and three more stores have since opened in February.

Along with the sales tax figure, officials told the Pueblo Chieftain that the county also collected $70,400 in licensing and renewal fees in January alone. County Commissioner Liane McFayden said that $100,000 in the first month is far ahead of the $400,000 in revenue she predicted for the entire year.

The irony is that the only new revenue we have coming in is in marijuana and yet we have to open a new judicial building,” she said.

County Budget and finance Director Cal Hamler responded by joking, “We have to sell more weed!”

The state taxes recreational marijuana at a 10-percent rate, but then refunds 15-percent of that total back to the counties where the drug was first sold. There are 160 license pot stores throughout Colorado and each has until February 20 to publicize its sales tax totals. Pueblo County was simply the first to do so.

County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz told the Associated Press that the marijuana industry could generate as much as $670,000 in new tax revenue for Pueblo County in 2014. If the current pace continues, Gilbert said, the state will earn $11.2 million in marijuana sales this year. That is especially remarkable when considering that the county’s annual budget is $165 million.

Being really the only real retail marijuana outlet in southern Colorado, the numbers don’t surprise me,” Commissioner McFayden told KRDO-TV in Colorado. “Certainly we have a sheriff and a prosecutor in our district attorney not very excited about marijuana. The likelihood is it’s going to be the best avenue for us to open up our judicial building.”

It’s impossible to predict the total amount of revenue the entire state will receive by the end of the year, yet tax officials have forecast that the additional revenue could amount to $67 million. An estimated $27.5 million will be put aside for education and other regional needs, while a large percentage of the remainder will be recycled and used to regulate the marijuana industry itself.