David Shankbone

Cannabis Excise Tax Successfully Generating Funds for Colorado Public Schools

A 15% excise tax on recreational cannabis sales was one of many provisions in Colorado’s Amendment 64, the legalization law that took effect statewide in 2014. And, according to the initiative, the first $40 million raised through that 15% tax would be slotted specifically for Colorado public schools.

Now — according to Ricardo Baca, editor of The Cannabist — it appears 2016 is shaping up to be the first year that Colorado schools can expect the full $40 million that was loudly touted by cannabis activists during the state’s 2012 legalization push.

In 2014, that specific tax totaled $13.3 million; in 2015, it increased to $35 million.

“We would be confident that at the current growth trend rates it’s going to exceed $40 million this year,” said Roy Bingham, founder of Boulder-based BDS Analytics. “We’re not big prognosticators of the future, but you can more or less draw a straight line of this year’s growth on the adult-use side and assume that that trend, even if it slows down a little, will grow and eventually exceed $40 million. That would be a growth of only 12 percent on the year, and it’ll be a lot more than that.”

Recent data from Colorado’s Department of Revenue indicates that Colorado retailers sold more than $88 million in cannabis products during January, 2016. Meanwhile, total Colorado cannabis sales during 2015 were just a hair under $1 billion.

So there you have it: cannabis legalization — and the subsequent effects of regulation — is working.

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