Recreational marijuana products are on display at Sunrise Solutions in Bailey in March 2014. (Anya Semenoff, Denver Post file)

Colorado pot sales spike in July, set recreational and medical records

Colorado pot sales — recreational and medical — were thriving in July 2015, the most recent month for which the Department of Revenue has released marijuana tax data.

After topping $50 million for the first time in June, recreational sales cleared the $55 million hurdle in July when sales totaled more than $56.4 million — a record for retail cannabis in Colorado. Medical marijuana sales numbers in July were also at their highest in the recreational era’s 19 months of recorded data, reaching more than $39.8 million.

Recreational cannabis sales began on Jan. 1, 2014 in Colorado, the first state to launch a retail marijuana program.

In total, more than $96 million of marijuana was sold in Colorado shops in July — up from $85 million in June. For context, 2014’s most robust month of recreational and medical cannabis sales was August, when those sales totaled $67 million.

In 2014, nearly $700 million of marijuana was sold in Colorado. Now seven months into 2015 — and with what is likely to be a busy winter ahead — nearly $540 million of cannabis has been sold in the state.

“Those numbers are showing that our pot tourism is surely increasing,” said Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce. “People want to come here and try this out and tell their friends and family that they came to Colorado and tried some of the best cannabis the world has to offer and they had a great time.”

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 July, Colorado collected $10.8 million in recreational taxes and fees and $2.0 million in medical taxes and fees, bringing the 2015 cumulative revenue total to nearly $73.5 million.

Perhaps the most-watched figure in the state’s marijuana tax data is the 15 percent excise tax, which is earmarked in Colorado for school construction projects. In July that tax brought in $3 million, up from $2.9 million in June. In the first seven months of 2015, those school-bound tax revenues topped $19.6 million; in all of 2014, that tax brought in $13.3 million.

While the schools-bound tax totals may not reach the $40 million number used to lure voters to legalize recreational marijuana in Colorado, Henson encourages patience.

“These numbers are going to slowly climb,” Henson said, “but we’re a culture that wants things now. But if we’re patient and wait, those numbers are going to get to where everyone’s expecting. Give it some time, and those numbers are going to be where they’re supposed to be at — and people will start seeing the benefit in the next few years.

“We’ve only been up and running in the last year and a half.”

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

2015 Recreational total (7 months)
2015 Medical total (7 months)
2015: $538,442,321
2014 Recreational total (12 months)
2014 Medical total (12 months)
2014: $699,198,805