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Colorado notches best month yet for pot taxes, especially in funds for schools

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DENVER — Colorado reported its best month yet for recreational marijuana sales in January, with a tenfold spike since last year in the tax stream designated specifically for schools.

Colorado notched $8.8 million from marijuana-related taxes and fees in January. The numbers were reported this week, the first time Colorado had a month to compare to a year-ago period.

Most striking in the January numbers was a spike in the tax stream designated specifically for schools. That excise tax brought in $2.3 million. That's more than 10 times the haul from January of 2014, when Colorado started collecting the tax, when the excise tax raised $195,000.

Colorado's marijuana industry was given a tax-free period when recreational sales began to transfer their pot plants from the medical industry to the recreational industry. As a result, excise taxes for the first few months were quite low.

By now, Colorado's pot shops have sold all their tax-free pot, so the plants they're growing now are subject to a 15 percent excise tax.

The excise taxes are designated specifically for school construction. The rest of the taxes are spent by state lawmakers, who have used the money on regulating the new industry, and on things like police training and drug education.

The January tax report is the final monthly tally lawmakers will have before setting next year's budget. That's important because Colorado's rising tax revenues are triggering a mandatory refund of the pot taxes, a quirk of constitutional spending limits.

State lawmakers are expected to pass a measure to ask voters this fall to authorize keeping the pot taxes instead of refunding them. That measure has yet to be introduced.


Online:

Colorado pot tax data: http://1.usa.gov/1syhgui

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