DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado is wrapping up its first year of recreational marijuana sales, and while the numbers are not all in yet, sales have added significantly to the state’s coffers.
“We’re on track for my expectations of how marijuana legalization regulation and taxation would roll out,” said Sen. Pat Steadman, a Democrat representing Denver and Arapahoe counties.
Steadman is a member of the Joint Budget Committee and has been key to drafting the legislation that allows the state to collect marijuana taxes and to distribute them.
In the first 11 months, the state has collected $49.2 million in taxes and licensing fees on retail marijuana. The revenue numbers for December won’t be available for another month. $3 million of that money went to cover the cost of regulation. The state collected $34.8 million in sales tax, and $11.3 million in excise tax.
“The excise tax has probably been the biggest disappointment so far,” Steadman told CBS4.
Supporters of legalized marijuana promised that the first $40 million of the excise tax would go to school construction. In the first year, the state only collected $11.3 million, all of which has gone to school repair projects.
“There were some peculiarities in the law that have resulted in less excise tax collection,” Steadman explained. He believes lawmakers will move to close those loopholes during the current General Assembly.
“Amendment 64 has been described as an experiment, and we don’t know how long the experiment is going to last. Will the next president of the United States… will his or her attorney general allow us to continue to have legal marijuana sales in our state? We don’t know,” Steadman explained.
The uncertainty of the experiment has made lawmakers reluctant to put sales tax revenue into the general operating budget. Instead, lawmakers chose to use the money to try to mitigate the impact of legalized marijuana. They’ll use the $34.8 million collected in sales taxes for programs associated with law enforcement training, addiction treatment, education and prevention.
“It’s critical that we train our law enforcement officers in how we’re dealing on this… what I will call… new frontier,” said Chief John Jackson, the president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
This new frontier makes marijuana more prevalent in the community, putting kids at risk.
“I was really excited to hear that they were targeting at risk youth,” said Lori Canova, CEO of the “I Have A Dream” Foundation of Boulder County.
The foundation serves low-income kids, providing mentoring, tutoring and cultural enrichment. The organization applied for and recently was approved for a $50,000 grant to pay for a program that would teach their kids to stay away from marijuana.
“If we can educate them about the consequences of using and how that’s going to impact their day-to-day lives and their future, then I think it’s really important that they’ve used the funds this way,” Canova told CBS4.
The state is entering its second year of legalized marijuana, and lawmakers like Steadman seem satisfied with how the experiment is going so far.
“I think the spending and the use we’re making of these dollars is keeping faith with what the voters had in mind when they legalized it,” he said.
–Written for CBSDenver.com by Special Projects Producer Libby Smith