Business

Marijuana Tax Revenue Fell Nearly 24 Percent in 2022

The Colfax Pot Shop was open on East Colfax Avenue in Denver since 2010, but closed in 2022 during a record-low year for marijuana sales.
The Colfax Pot Shop was open on East Colfax Avenue in Denver since 2010, but closed in 2022 during a record-low year for marijuana sales. Thomas Mitchell
Colorado marijuana prices and sales plummeted in 2022, and so did the state's tax haul, according to new figures from the state Department of Revenue. The state collected a total of just over $325.1 million in marijuana taxes and business fees in 2022, DOR data shows, down about 23.3 percent from 2021, when nearly $423.5 million was collected.

Although the final tally isn't in for dispensary sales (DOR releases those numbers a month later than it does tax revenue statistics), stores sold $1.63 billion in product from January through November of last year; if that pace held through December, 2022's sales total could fall more than 20 percent short of 2021's final tally of $2.29 billion.

After recreational sales started in 2014, Colorado's commercial cannabis industry didn't experience a dry spell until 2021, when both wholesale prices and dispensary sales started dropping after a record-breaking  2020. That drop was slight and didn't occur until the end of the year, though, and it didn't prevent the state from reaching new highs in dispensary sales and tax revenue in 2021.

But last year was a full-on drought for the state's marijuana industry, with the average price per pound of flower falling nearly 62 percent, the lowest total ever recorded in Colorado. A state law limiting THC concentrate sales for medical marijuana patients was enacted in 2021, as well, with medical sales reaching record lows last year.

The year-plus industry recession has led to a burst of marijuana business closures and takeovers across Colorado, with two large dispensary chains closing their doors over six-figure tax bills and several more agreeing to acquisition offers from out-of-state corporations.

Colorado has collected over $2.34 billion in marijuana taxes and fees since recreational pot sales began in 2014. That tax revenue funds public school construction and youth programs across the state, and is frequently used to fund bills connected to mental health, social service programs, youth and education services, and law enforcement initiatives.

Public education in Colorado receives marijuana tax revenue through the state’s Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) fund — a matching grant program — and the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund. Local governments can distribute their own marijuana tax revenue to schools, as well. The BEST fund annually receives either $40 million or 90 percent of the state’s 15 percent wholesale and excise tax revenue on recreational pot sales, whichever is greater.
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Colorado Department of Education
A program for public schools to rebuild, repair or replace primary educational facilities, the BEST fund has received approximately $329.7 million from marijuana tax revenue since recreational sales began in 2014, according to the Colorado Department of Education. However, attaining a BEST grant is “competitive” and has to be matched by local district funding, the CDE notes.

The state’s Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, built on the 15 percent sales tax, was created by the Colorado Legislature in 2014 to support research in the areas of health care, substance abuse, law enforcement and marijuana impact, as well as public school programs, with marijuana tax revenue. Between 2014 and 2020, the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund contributed over $193 million to literacy grants, anti-bullying initiatives, dropout prevention and the hiring of public-health professionals in public schools, according to the CDE.

Revenue allocated to the Colorado State Public School Fund — a general education fund built on 12.59 percent of the state’s nine-tenths share of the special sales tax on recreational pot and available to all school districts — in 2021 has not yet been reported; from 2017 to 2020, the average annual marijuana tax revenue contribution to the fund was $25 million.

The remaining tax revenue from the state’s special sales tax on recreational marijuana goes to the general fund and a local government share-back program for cities and counties with marijuana businesses, which receives 10 percent. Revenue from Colorado’s 2.9 percent standard sales tax on pot sales also goes toward the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell

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