(AAron Ontiveroz, Denver Post file)

Colorado pot taxes: Nov. medical sales tanked as retail numbers held strong

Colorado’s legal cannabis industry experienced an unusual autumn in 2014 — one that saw recreational pot sales reach a plateau of sorts as demand for medical marijuana took a nosedive.

Medical marijuana sales in Colorado tanked in November as they dropped nearly 17 percent from the previous month, according to just-released data from the Department of Revenue. Medical dispensaries sold $27.5 million of cannabis in November, a big downturn from October’s $33.1 million in medical revenues. Meanwhile the state’s recreational weed sales are holding strong — with $31.2 million in November and $31.6 million in both October and September.

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A number of cannabis industry professionals scratched their heads at the November numbers, unsure what to make of medical pot’s noteworthy downturn.

As 2014 marked the first regulated marijuana sales in the modern world, the year’s data on Colorado cannabis is as educational as it is mysterious. The amount of recreational taxes and sales mostly increased month over month, given the new shops opening in the state. But we also saw the shine wearing off as the year progressed; Recreational sales numbers have been nearly identical for the last three months of collected data, September through November.

The medical market has been, for the most part, steady — with these new November sales statistics showing medical pot’s lowest numbers of 2014.

But we also learned that pot, like Colorado tourism, also has its high and low seasons. The biggest month for recreational marijuana in Colorado: Dead-of-summer August, when the state sold $34.1 million of green. Industry experts expect recreational marijuana sales to pick up significantly as the ski resorts get their bases, and tourism, built up in January and February.

But the sales are only part of the story. From Jan. 1-Nov. 30, Colorado brought in more than $67.5 million in taxes, licenses and fees via recreational and medical cannabis.