Tax Revenues From Pot in Colorado Higher Than Expected

| by Allison Geller

In Colorado, where pot dispensaries now outnumber Starbucks Coffee shops in the capital, tax revenues from marijuana have exceeded expectations.

Officials estimate that the 12.9 percent tax on recreational pot will bring in $98 million in state revenue next year of $610 million in total sales. That figure is significantly higher than the $70 million that had been expected.

Gov. John Hickenlooper wrote in his budget proposal with the estimates that he plans on spending $99 million next year on substance abuse prevention money that would come out of the marijuana tax revenues.

$45.5 million would be used for youth prevention, $40.4 million for substance abuse treatment and $12.4 million for public health.

The governor wrote that "this package represents a strong yet cautious first step" for regulating the marijuana market.

The marijuana wave has come with its own safety concerns. Since 2009, when medical marijuana became widely available in the state, the number of children who required medical treatment for accidently ingesting marijuana, usually through food that contained the special ingredient, has spiked. Others are concerned about regulating products that contain marijuana.

Barbara Brohl, Colorado's marijuana czar, said that safety regulations are being put in place.

“We plan to, between June and September of this year, require mandatory testing of products,” she told CBS.

Marijuana advocates recognize that the tax revenue is a large part of the nationwide shift in attitudes towards legalization.

"Voters and state lawmakers around the country are watching how this system unfolds in Colorado, and the prospect of generating significant revenue while eliminating the underground marijuana market is increasingly appealing," said Mason Tvert, a Colorado activist who works for the Marijuana Policy Project.

While legalization has made marijuana far more widely available, it’s also increased the price.

“You could buy a quarter ounce for $30 to $35 even up to five years ago and today I just got an eighth and paid almost $60,” Colorado resident and pot smoker Julie Miller told news station KTVI.

Sources: Associated Press, CBS, KTVI