Colorado has made more than half a billion dollars from taxing marijuana since recreational sales became legal in the state three years ago.
Tax revenues from marijuana sales have increased every year since 2014, when the state made more than $76 million, according to a report released Wednesday by cannabis strategic planning firm VS Strategies.
The report shows the total revenue from marijuana totaled almost $199 million in 2016, and Colorado has already taken in almost $100 million in taxes through May.
Mason Tvert, a spokesman for VS Strategies, said the new revenue is having a “significant and positive impact on our community,” Fox 13 Denver reported Wednesday.
More than half of the new funds in Colorado are being used for education, and 14 percent go to substance abuse prevention and treatment. The funds also support services such as regulating the sales, criminal justice and additional public health uses.
“We hope lawmakers will continue to distribute these funds responsibly and not lose sight of what voters intended when they opted to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol,” Tvert said. “Marijuana tax money has been used to improve a wide range of programs and services.”
Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, pushed back on the benefits of commercializing the drug, saying it costs $193 billion a year to taxpayers nationally and $3.3 billion in Colorado for workers’ “lost productivity, health, and safety costs.”
He said these costs “far outweigh” the increased revenue taken in from the commercialization of the drug. Sabet cited the fact that some Colorado businesses have had to hire residents outside the state “to find drug-free employees” and claimed that the revenue doesn't put a dent in total education funding.
“Like the tobacco industry before it, the Colorado marijuana lobby is touting marijuana as the panacea for every contemporary challenge Colorado faces,” Sabet said. “It’s time for the marijuana industry to face the truth – they lied to voters and have failed to live up to their promises."
—Updated Thursday at 12:31 p.m.