Colorado’s Legal Weed Industry Rakes In $1 Billion

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The marijuana industry in Colorado sold a record amount of weed in 2016, eclipsing $1 billion in sales for the first time, but state vendors fear Attorney General Jeff Sessions will threaten the young market.

The Colorado Department of Revenue revealed Thursday marijuana dispensaries throughout the state sold roughly $1.3 billion worth of medical and recreational pot last year. It’s a slight increase over 2015’s previous record haul of $996 million, marking the third straight year of growth in the burgeoning industry. The state government pulled in roughly $200 million through tax revenue and fees from sales, reports 9News.

The revenue goes towards various programs in the state, from school construction to public health initiatives. Recreational weed dominated sales, accounting for roughly $875 million of the total, while medical marijuana earned roughly $438 million.

Colorado is looked to as the trailblazer on easing marijuana laws, with Denver in particular being at the forefront of new legalization initiatives. A popular ballot in Denver will legalize social marijuana use in any business that attains a permit, ranging from cafes to yoga studios.

Despite the success of the industry, experts are nervous over Sessions’ confirmation as attorney general, since he’s a staunch opponent of marijuana reform. Some activists fear his confirmation will lead to further raids in states where marijuana is legal. Sessions fielded several questions on federal marijuana policy during his hearing in January, however, his answers did not go far in clarifying whether he will be adversarial to state laws on pot.

“Everyone in the industry, in the marijuana industry, is concerned,” Brian Ruden, owner of several Starbuds shops in the Denver area, told ABC Denver. “He could possibly send a letter to all the state governors and say, ‘Get rid of the marijuana in your states or we’ll take action.’ There are thousands and thousands of jobs that rely on the marijuana industry indirectly. Electricians, plumbers, warehouse space – all things are impacted by the industry.”

Trump promised to respect states’ rights on the issue during the campaign, but it is unclear if he will maintain that position.

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Steve Birr