A close-up of marijuana flowers at La Conte's grow facility in Denver in December 2014. (Denver Post file)

Colorado pot sales spike in June, top $50 million for first time

Colorado’s monthly recreational cannabis sales topped $50 million for the first time, according to new data from the Colorado Department of Revenue.

The retail pot sales figures for June 2015 also saw their largest-ever month-over-month increase, adding credibility to 2014 trends that hinted at marijuana sales spiking in Colorado tourism’s high seasons of summer and winter.

Colorado state Sen. Pat Steadman, a Democrat representing District 31, said that spikes in recreational cannabis sales correlating with tourism hotspots “wouldn’t surprise me.”

“It might be too early to say for sure that there’s these patterns, but you can explain some of them if you think about the winter sport tourism or summer tourism or other things happening — vacations, wedding parties, graduations,” said Steadman. “It’s a lifestyle thing.”

Recreational pot sales jumped more than $7.6 million from May to June, totaling $50.1 million, according to the data. Medical marijuana sales also saw a significant uptick in June, up more than $2.8 million from the previous month for an annual high of $35.2 million.

There are three types of state taxes on recreational marijuana: the standard 2.9 percent sales tax, a 10 percent special marijuana sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana transfers. For June, Colorado collected a total of $9 million in recreational taxes and fees and $1.85 million in medical taxes and fees, bringing the 2015 cumulative revenue total to $60.7 million.

The 15 percent excise tax, which is earmarked in Colorado for school construction projects, brought in $2.9 million in June, down from $3.5 million in May. In the first six months of 2015, those school-bound tax revenues topped $16.6 million; in all of 2014, that tax brought in $13.3 million.

So while legal marijuana’s school-bound tax monies are growing, they’re still fluctuating month by month — but Steadman said that’s not a factor for concern.

“The excise tax is collected at the point when it’s transferred from the cultivation to the retail,” said Steadman, “so if you have several big growers harvesting in the same month, you’ll get more excise tax that month. It depends on when people make those transfers and what their growing cycles are, so you can’t read too much into that.”

These June numbers are particularly notable, Steadman said, because the world’s first legal recreational marijuana program now has 18 consecutive months of sales and tax data to study.

“I think we’re going to start seeing some more predictability,” said Steadman. “The market is becoming more and more stable. There are still new entrants to the market, new licenses being issued and people going out of business too. But from this point forward, we’ll have data that shows us clearer trends around sales volumes and tax data, and that’s important.”

Sales stats for Colorado weed
A month-by-month look comparing sales of recreational and medical marijuana

2015 Recreational total (6 months)
2015 Medical total (6 months)
2015: $442,205,934
2014 Recreational total (12 months)
2014 Medical total (12 months)
2014: $699,198,805