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Colorado legal pot industry sales grew 3 percent in 2018, top $6 billion since recreational use began

Key Points
  • Colorado's regulated pot industry sales have topped $6 billion since legal recreational marijuana sales began and taxes generated by the industry grew by nearly 8 percent last year, the state reported Tuesday.
  • Regulated marijuana sales in 2018 were nearly $1.55 billion, up about 3 percent from a year earlier.
  • The growth of Colorado's legal marijuana economy contrasts with a slow start in California's regulated pot market, which began recreational sales in January 2018.
A customer shopping for marijuana in Colorado.
Getty Images

Colorado's regulated pot industry sales have topped $6 billion since legal recreational marijuana sales began in 2014 and taxes generated by the industry grew by nearly 8 percent last year, the state reported Tuesday.

The Colorado Department of Revenue said regulated marijuana sales in calendar 2018 were nearly $1.55 billion, up about 3 percent from just over $1.5 billion in 2017. The state has seen its marijuana industry sales more than double since 2014 when the first year of adult-use pot generated $683.5 million.

The agency said Colorado's marijuana taxes, including licenses and fees from dispensaries, exceeded $266.5 million in 2018 — up nearly 8 percent compared with $247 million in 2017. To date, the state's marijuana taxes since recreational sales started have generated more than $927 million in tax revenue for Colorado.

The growth of Colorado's legal marijuana economy contrasts with a slow start in California's market, which began recreational pot sales in January 2018. The legal pot industry in California has struggled due to higher costs and continued competition from the illicit market.

In California, marijuana tax revenue came in $101 million below projections in the first six months of 2018. The state has blamed the shortfall in part on exorbitant taxes placed on the legal pot industry and limited access to banking.

Last month, a bill was introduced in the California state legislature to give legal cannabis businesses a tax break to help them thrive and better compete with the underground market. California's current marijuana taxes were imposed as part of Proposition 64, the adult-use legalization measure passed by voters in November 2016.

California expects marijuana excise taxes will generate $355 million in 2018-19 and another $514 million in 2019-20, according to the latest forecast from the state.