Medical marijuana patient numbers continued to climb in recent months, increasing from 115,710 people at the start of September to 117,239 by Halloween night. And those patients spent quite a bit of money on pot, with medical sales outpacing recreational sales in September and October as well.
Despite state and city tourism officials downplaying the effect of tourism on the pot industry (and vice versa), recreational sales had their biggest months in July and August -- traditionally two of the strongest months for visitors to this state. That flipped in September, when sales of medical pot exceeded those of recreational by about $748,000. And the divide became even larger in October, with medical shops doing $1.38 million more in business than rec shops.
Given the extra sales tax on recreational pot, the state still managed to pull in more tax revenue from part-time puffers than it did from patients. In September, the state received about $3.83 million in sales tax from recreational pot; in October, it collected more than $3.73 million. By comparison, the state pulled in less than $2 million from medical pot during both months combined.
Denver County is seeing the biggest sales of both recreational and medical marijuana, with four times as much pot sold in October in Denver than in Boulder, the county in Colorado with the second-highest sales figures.
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Not all recreational tax figures dipped in September and October. Tax revenue generated from the 15 percent excise tax on wholesale recreational cannabis continued to climb, as more recreational dispensaries and grow operations begin to sell off their excess. In October, the state pulled in $1,718,273 from such sales, bringing its total take that month to $6,996,741 -- all of which is earmarked for the state's public-school construction fund. The state also pulled in more than $5.9 million in licenses and fees.
Those figures should help pacify lawmakers, some of whom have opined that the state's medical marijuana patient numbers are too high and that medical sales, which call for only a 2.9 percent sales tax, are preventing the state from pulling in more recreational pot dollars. So, too, should figures showing a drastic drop in people signing up with a dispensary or a private caregiver over the past three months.
Recently, state health officials have tried to label caregivers growing for other patients as a "loophole" of sorts and have begun to blame this relatively small group for a large chunk of the excess marijuana leaving the state (never mind that anyone 21 and up can grow for themselves). Though no regulations were passed to further limit caregivers, the increased scrutiny seems to be accomplishing the health department's goal, as the number of people with someone else growing for them dipped from 56,697 to 53,929 between August and October.
While the figures don't differentiate between private caregivers and dispensaries, the breakdown historically has been about 85-15 percent between dispensaries and percent caregivers. We've asked the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for a breakdown of the figures and will update the post when we receive it.