Colorado Weed Retail Pass $15 Billion Since 2014

Stephen Andrews
13 Oct 2023

Colorado’s legal cannabis sales reach an important milestone in the nine years since legalization. The Centennial State was among the first, along with Washington, to legalize the recreational use of weed back in 2012. The regulated recreational market officially launched in January, 2014. Since then, cannabis shops across the state have generated a total of $15 billion.

The Colorado Department of Revenue released new sales figures in October, revealing that between January and August 2023, the state passed $15 billions in legal cannabis sales. Of that money, $2,5 billion have been collected as marijuana tax. 

During the first eight months of 2023, the legal sales in Colorado amassed slightly more than $1 bn. August is one of the most successful months this year, with expenditure in both medical and recreational cannabis products having topped $132.4 million. 

Colorado probably reached the big number months ago or maybe even a year ago; the state began tracking cannabis sales only in 2014. Medical cannabis was already legal in Colorado as of 2008, so the sales from the years preceding the launch of recreational retail are unaccounted for in the reports. 

Fifteen Billion Dollars, That’s A Lot of Weed

There’s a lot you can buy with $15 billion dollars. You can certainly buy an island with it. Or get on a trip around the world with a private jet and stay in the most expensive luxurious resorts. 

Nevertheless, the number does not reflect the current state of the Colorado legal state cannabis market. After sales reached a peak during the COVID-19 pandemic, things have been continually going down. 

The numbers may still look fantastic on paper, but come December, the sales are likely poised to move down year-on-year for a second time in a row.

The most successful year of all remains 2021, when Colorado dispensaries grossed $2.28 bn. Then, in the following twelve months, in 2022, sales decreased for a whopping 25%. 

Still, the legal cannabis sector is pumping a huge amount of tax money. Colorado is one of only five states in the USA reporting that weed taxes made up more than 1% of their total tax collection. 

Big Chunk of Colorado Marijuana Tax Money Goes Into Education

Recreational weed products in Colorado have a 15 percent tax on sale, plus there is the 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana. In addition, Colorado has a 2.9 percent sales tax on all recreational and medicinal cannabis purchases. A fourth channel through which state authorities collect money from the cannabis sector is the various licensing and application fees that state-approved cannabis operators are obliged to settle. 

The state authorities have various ways in how they spend the marijuana tax money. A part of the money goes to public schools. It’s estimated that around $40 million goes to education on an annual basis. A lot of this money is used in programs that aim to rebuild, repair or replace primary educational facilities. The total expenditure for that has surpassed $500 million since 2014, according to the Colorado Department of Education. 

Marijuana tax revenue is also allocated to support the state’s health care system, substance abuse services, law enforcement and cannabis research, among other things.

A lot has happened and changed since 2014. Colorado’s market might be currently on the curve of slowing down, and that’s fine, it's probably temporary. Markets do go through shrinking cycles all the time. Perhaps more importantly, in all these years, Colorado has given a blueprint to regulators in other states. Newer markets have been able to learn from mistakes and experiences in the Colorado state market and create better frameworks under which legal cannabis can function. That wouldn't be possible without Colorado. So, to many more billions!

Also read on Soft Secrets:

Colorado to Allow Online Marijuana Sales

Weed Vending Machine Arrives in Colorado

- New Mexico First Year of Legalization in Numbers

Stephen Andrews