Marijuana: Rec Sales Beat Medical in Early 2015

Retail cannabis outsold medical marijuana through the first two months of 2015, according to tax-revenue data from the Colorado Department of Revenue. Stats show that between January 1 and the end of February, Colorado medical dispensaries had sold $55,394,034 worth of cannabis, pulling in $1,606,427 in total sales taxes. Recreational pot collected $73,160,034 in that same time period, netting nearly $2,121,641 in sales tax.

Recreational cannabis is also taxed with a special 10 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale transactions. Combined, those two taxes have brought the state an additional $11,812,294 in revenue so far this year, with $4,472,310 earmarked for public ­school construction. Licensing revenue for recreational pot brought in an additional $664,100.

In comparison to the first year of recreational pot sales, the 2015 figures represent a major jump in pot purchases. As of February 2014, the state’s recreational shops had sold only $29,480,862 worth of pot. Of course, fewer shops were open last February; a large number of recreational shops have come online in the past twelve months. Excise taxes have also increased as more and more standalone grow facilities became licensed and wholesale sales picked up.

But while recreational pot sales are booming, medical pot sales are slipping. Medical pot was far outselling recreational at this time last year, with $66,748,103 in total sales through the first two months of 2014. The dip in medical cannabis revenue isn’t due to a drop in patients, however.

There were about 849 more patients as of February 2015 than there were in February 2014. The decline in revenue could be due to the reduction in patients who signed up with a private caregiver.

Recent efforts by state lawmakers to rein in the caregiver program by limiting the number of patients each caregiver can serve has made signing up with a caregiver less and less attractive to patients.

In February 2014, there were roughly 63,500 patients with a private caregiver or a primary dispensary. By February 2015, that number had dropped by some 17,000 people, to just 45,716.

The figures are no doubt a relief to some lawmakers, who have publicly stated that they want to see more medical patients move over to the recreational system, which in turn means more tax revenue for the state. Included in that group is Senator Irene Aguilar, who has pushed the bill limiting caregivers in an effort to generate “valuable tax revenue” for the state.

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