Budtenders Maxwell Bradford, left, and Emma Attolini display buds in the shape of Christmas trees that are on sale for the 2014 holiday season in a recreational marijuana shop in northwest Denver. (David Zalubowski, Associated Press file)

Welcome to harvest season: Colorado marijuana sales see drop in October

Recreational and medical marijuana sales in Colorado took sharp dives in October 2015 from the previous month, according to new data from the state’s Department of Revenue.

From September to October, recreational cannabis sales dipped 13 percent to $49.1 million and medical pot sales dropped 18 percent to $31.3 million, according to Cannabist calculations based on the state’s tax data.

But why are these statewide pot sales figures dropping for a second consecutive month?

Medical marijuana patient advocate Teri Robnett says the significant downturn is most likely the result of Colorado’s limited growing season and the state’s laws that allow at-home cannabis cultivation.

“It’s harvest season,” said Robnett, who founded the Cannabis Patients Alliance and is a regular at regulatory meetings dealing with medical marijuana. “(The drop) doesn’t surprise me at all; I’d expect the sales numbers to fall in September and October. A lot of people who are cultivating at home for their own use, they will utilize the industry in the off season, but now they’ve been growing through the spring and summer.

“This is typically harvest season for most agricultural crops in Colorado. It’s no different for cannabis.”

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Ultraviolet grow lights illuminate marijuana plants in a grow room at the 3D Dispensary in Denver in February 2014. (David Zalubowski, Associated Press file)

The sales dip could also be attributed to the changing of the seasons and the drop in tourist activity that comes along with that, as state Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, told The Cannabist last month.

“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.

Nearly $700 million of medical and recreational marijuana was sold in Colorado in 2014. In only 10 months of recorded data, the 2015 numbers have already passed last year’s mark, with more than $814 million in sales.

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 October, Colorado collected $9.7 million in recreational taxes and fees and more than $1.5 million in medical taxes and fees, bringing the 2015 cumulative revenue total to more than $109 million.

Perhaps the most-watched figure in the state’s marijuana tax data is the 15 percent excise tax, which is earmarked for school construction projects. In October that tax brought in more than $2.6 million, down from $3.3 million in August. So far in 2015, those school-bound tax revenues have topped $28.4 million; in all of 2014, that tax brought in $13.3 million.

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

2015 Recreational total (10 months)
2015 Medical total (10 months)
2015: $814,220,982
2014 Recreational total (12 months)
2014 Medical total (12 months)
2014: $699,198,805