Colorado’s recreational marijuana sales were up slightly in February, bringing in $4.1 million in overall taxes and fees, a bump over January’s $3.5 million total.
The new figures come as lawmakers consider how to spend the money, leaving many feeling cautious about committing to spending anything until the revenue stream is more predictable.
According to The Associated Press, most of the increase in February came from fees associated with medical marijuana. Taxes on marijuana retail sales to adults, which became legal in January, increased only by $30,000.
The uncertainty led Gov. John Hickenlooper to lop $20 million off his first-year estimates for pot revenue, upon which he’d based a spending package for lawmakers to consider. That package now costs $54 million and is largely spent on youth prevention plans, marijuana education, and training for law enforcement to spot stoned drivers.
But lawmakers don’t seem to be in a big rush to commit the funds to anything just yet.
“What is the level of urgency and threat that makes us want to hurry up and spend the money before it even comes in the door?” Democratic state Sen. Pat Steadman is quoted as saying by the AP.
Members of the Joint Budget Committee have proposed treating marijuana revenue like gambling revenue by holding it over for a year before spending it.
But Republican Rep. Cheri Gerou said the state should begin spending pot money on youth prevention as soon as possible, worried that greater availability of marijuana will lead to a spike in use by those under 21.
Steadman wasn’t convinced.
“It’s not like children became exposed to marijuana for the first time” when Colorado legalized marijuana, Steadman said. “I’m not sure I feel the same urgency to act right away.”
January’s sales collections came when only 59 retail locations were open for business. In February, that number climbed to 83, according to the AP, and grew to nearly 200 by the end of March. March sales taxes aren’t due yet and won’t be reported until May.
The JBC will continue debate about how and when to spend pot taxes.
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