Record Sales Bring New High to Marijuana Tax Revenue

Colorado dispensaries continued attracting more customers than the year before in 2019.
Colorado dispensaries continued attracting more customers than the year before in 2019. Scott Lentz
Another record year for legal marijuana sales has led to a new high for Colorado's take, according to the state Department of Revenue.

After 2019 came to a close, the DOR counted over $302 million in marijuana tax revenue collected during the year, nearly a 12 percent bump over 2018's total of $266.5 million. The record-breaking amount came thanks to approximately $1.72 billion in dispensary sales last year, according to calculations based on previous sales reports and DOR tax data. (The final dispensary sales report for 2019 won't be published until February.)

And where is all the money going? Every fiscal year, the first $40 million of recreational marijuana excise tax revenue is distributed to the state's Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, which is administered by the state Department of Education. Extra marijuana excise tax revenue then goes to the state's general public school fund, which will collect around $30 million from 2019 sales, according to projections based off previous years.

Slices of Colorado's marijuana tax revenue are also put back into the state's general budget, distributed to local governments ($20.3 million over the last fiscal year) and added to the state's marijuana tax cash fund, which pays for certain state offices, the regulation of new state laws, and social programs addressing issues like affordable housing and substance abuse.

Although Colorado's marijuana industry saw a big bump in sales last year, things could level out in 2020, according to a recent projection from the Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting. That report predicts taxable revenue from dispensary marijuana sales to achieve around 10.4 percent growth for the fiscal year of 2019-’20 (July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020), but then drop to 1.4 percent for 2020-’21, as other states start selling recreational marijuana, new dispensary opportunities become scarcer around Colorado and the industry waits on recreational marijuana delivery becoming legal here in 2021.

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Colorado Department of Revenue
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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
Contact: Thomas Mitchell