Back in October, at a time when plenty of jurisdictions across Colorado were balking at allowing recreational marijuana sales, Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace told us that officials in his part of southern Colorado had chosen to embrace the new industry. "As communities turn down this part of Amendment 64, we see it as an opportunity for growth in Pueblo," he said.
Score one for Pace. Pueblo has just released January sales figures, and the numbers are just shy of $1 million for the only two shops open in the county thus far.
The total sales between the two stores during January topped out at $932,657.14, according to Pueblo County figures -- and that's paying off for taxpayers. Here's a further breakdown of the digits, from a county release:
• $32,643 paid directly to Pueblo County for January sales as part of the 3.5% special sales tax approved by the voters in November (this was the first time in Pueblo County history that the County collected retail sales tax).
• $93,266 projected paid to the State in January from Pueblo County as part of the special 10% state sales tax approved by voters in November (15 percent of that amount will be sent back to Pueblo County from the State).
• $13,989.90 expected to be paid back to the County by the State as part of the January 2014 sales, and $9,326.57 is the expected sales tax collected for the County as part of the County's regular 1 percent sales tax on all sales.
• $55,959.47 TOTAL projected paid to Pueblo County in all January 2014 sales tax.
• $11,191,885.70 the projected amount of gross sales in Pueblo County for 2014 for recreational marijuana if the January sales pace continues.
• $671,513.64 the projected total of expected sales tax generated for Pueblo County during all of 2014 if sales continue at the same pace as January 2014.
Of course, annual estimates represent the purest guesswork, especially with additional shops in the planning stages. Pueblo regulations limit the number of retail operations at ten, but when they'll be open is hard to know. Another three are expected to start doing business by the end of the month, but the schedule for the rest remains more amorphous at present.
In the meantime, however, Pueblo County is the rare jurisdiction to be touting recreational marijuana sales, as opposed to keeping the businesses at arm's length. The county release trumpets the area's "status as the only community between Denver and New Mexico with approved and operational recreational marijuana." And Pace continues to talk up the positive aspects of such commerce.
"During January, we took a million dollars out of the black market, while generating $55,000 in tax revenue for our local community," Pace notes in a statement. "We recognize that the eyes of the world are watching us and we are proud to have erected a robust regulatory environment in Pueblo County."
Adds Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz, the man in charge of licensing the stores and collecting taxes: "This is the first time in Pueblo County history we have collected retail sales tax. We wanted to make a business friendly tax collection system that works with the stores to ensure that our process wasn't onerous for their success."
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More from our Marijuana archive circa October 2013: "Marijuana: Pueblo hoping to profit from other cities' pot sale bans."