State Watch

Legal pot sales top $1 billion in 2 states

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Residents and visitors to the two states at the vanguard of the marijuana legalization movement spent about $1 billion on pot and pot products last year, according to state data.
Marijuana producers and retailers in Colorado generated more than $1.3 billion in revenue in 2016, the state Department of Revenue said Thursday. 
In Washington, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board said retailers have sold $984 million in pot products during fiscal year 2017 — which does not end until June. Sales in Washington have already eclipsed the $972 million during all of fiscal 2016, and the state expects to break the billion dollar mark within weeks.
Washington state consumers are purchasing an average of $4.3 million in pot products every day, according to Liquor and Cannabis Board data.
Voters in both states legalized marijuana through ballot measures in 2012, and both states have seen explosive growth during the first several years of legal sales. Colorado sales have almost doubled from the $700 million sold during the first year marijuana was legal, in 2013; Washington revenue has grown from $259 million in fiscal 2015.
{mosads}The legal sales in Colorado generated more than $200 million in tax revenue, most of which goes to fund state education programs and local governments. In Washington, sales this fiscal year have already generated $183 million in taxes.
Marijuana legalization advocates hailed the figures released this week, which they say show that sales once confined to the black market are now generating revenue for states.
“Over one billion dollars in marijuana sales that once took place in the underground market were instead conducted in regulated businesses this year,” said Mason Tvert, communications director at the Denver-based Marijuana Policy Project. “This money is just the tip of the iceberg.”
The explosion in sales comes as the marijuana industry experiences other evidence of boom times. A trade show in Denver last month attracted two thousand vendors and exhibitors, according to Taylor West, a spokeswoman for the National Cannabis Industry Association. Another trade show in November in Las Vegas attracted 10,000 visitors.
Voters in four states — California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine — opted to legalize marijuana for recreational use in November’s elections. They join Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia, where ballot measures passed in 2014. Several state legislatures, including New Jersey, Vermont and Rhode Island, are expected to debate legalization measures in their current sessions.
The legal marijuana industry generated almost $7 billion in sales in 2016, according to Arcview Market Research, which keeps tabs on the industry. Arcview expects more than $21 billion in revenue by 2021.
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