Colorado Dispensaries Make Bank On Recreational Marijuana

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The recreational marijuana industry is off to a record setting start this year in Colorado, with sales increasing by more than 30 percent over figures from 2016.

The marijuana industry in the state is coming off a record setting year in Colorado, but analysts say early trends point to even larger sales in 2017. Marijuana sales in January and February jumped 30 percent over profits earned in 2016 over the same period, totaling $235 million. Sales rose by 38 percent in January alone and the industry had their second largest month of sales ever in February, nearly topping $88 million, reports KUSA.

Analysts at Cannabis Benchmarks said high earnings are likely driven by a number of factors, including fear over a federal crackdown in the state. They suggest regular users might be hoarding a supply in case their access is disrupted by a hostile Department of Justice. Medical marijuana sales also reportedly increased over 2016, but not at the levels the recreational industry is enjoying.

The Colorado Department of Revenue revealed in February 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. Revenue from marijuana sales goes towards various programs in the state, from school construction to public health initiatives. Recreational weed dominated sales in 2016, accounting for roughly $875 million of the total, while medical marijuana earned roughly $438 million.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a stanch opponent of legalization, is currently reviewing the Cole Memorandum, a set of guidelines established in 2013 that direct DOJ to focus marijuana enforcement efforts on violent crimes and distribution in states without legalization laws. The review is provoking fears within the industry that the Department of Justice will orchestrate a federal crackdown on state recreational marijuana laws.

Legislation dubbed, “the Sessions safeguard,” passed the Colorado state Senate April 12. If federal law becomes adversarial toward recreational marijuana laws, the bill allows for a one-time legal reclassification of pot from recreational to medical, in order to prevent federal seizures in Colorado-based marijuana dispensaries.

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Steve Birr