Marijuana trimmings are collected while plants are processed at a Denver warehouse in March 2014. (John Leyba, Denver Post file)

Colorado monthly marijuana sales slump in September

After four consecutive months of growth, medical and recreational cannabis sales in Colorado saw a downturn in September, according to new data released by the state’s Department of Revenue this week.

But is the dip in monthly marijuana sales the result of fewer purchases during an off-season month, or was the system thrown out of whack because of the Sept. 16 pot tax holiday that alleviated some of the sales and excise taxes normally tacked onto cannabis purchases in the state?

It was likely a little bit of both, says State Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver.

“Sales volumes do increase a lot in the summer months, so some of what you could be seeing is back to school, people getting on with their lives and finally leaving the summer break behind,” said Steadman. “And some of that could also be the divot from the sales tax holiday.”

Revenues from recreational pot sales dropped to $56.4 million, while medical sales dipped to $38.2 million in September — a decline of around $3 million each from their record-setting August sales, when they totalled more than $100 million for the first time.

September was the fourth consecutive month that recreational cannabis sales in Colorado topped $50 million.

The state anticipated losing $3.6 million in revenue during the one-day pot tax holiday. Customers found some deals at pot shops on Sept. 16, but the businesses themselves came out the big winners. Many marijuana outfits stockpiled plant products in their cultivations and transferred them to stores on Sept. 16, allowing them to skip out on the 15 percent excise tax normally charged on those transfers.

The Joint Budget Committee was invited to tour the cannabis cultivation at Denver shop L’Eagle right after the pot tax holiday, Steadman said.

L’Eagle owner “John Andrle told us that his business alone had saved $50,000 on that day,” said Steadman, “just because he’d been holding inventory back in the grow.”

Nearly $700 million of medical and recreational marijuana was sold in Colorado in 2014. In only nine months of recorded data, the 2015 numbers have already passed last year’s mark, with more than $730 million of cannabis sold in the state.

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 September, Colorado collected $9.7 million in recreational taxes and fees and almost $2 million in medical taxes and fees, bringing the 2015 cumulative revenue total to more than $98.3 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 September that tax brought in $2.8 million, down from $3.3 million in August. In the first nine months of 2015, those school-bound tax revenues topped $25.7 million; in all of 2014, that tax brought in $13.3 million.

Ricardo Baca: 303-954-1394, or @bruvs

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

2015 Recreational total (9 months)
2015 Medical total (9 months)
2015: $733,756,232
2014 Recreational total (12 months)
2014 Medical total (12 months)
2014: $699,198,805