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Cannabis plants grow inside a cultivation facility near Lafayette on Dec. 13, 2018. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado retailers have sold $10 billion in marijuana since recreational pot started being sold in 2014, according to new monthly figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Revenue. 

Total 2020 sales hit $2.19 billion, up sharply from $1.75 billion in all of 2019, according to the state. Sales in December alone were $186.34 million. 

Statewide sales since cannabis retailers opened in 2014 reached $9.98 billion in December, meaning that with the addition of January and partial February sales, Colorado has likely far surpassed the $10 billion mark. 

The state said January 2021 sales translated to just under $35 million in state tax and fee revenues. (Monthly total sales numbers slightly lag reports of tax revenues deposited with the state.) Tax and fee revenue collected since 2014 now totals about $1.63 billion, the state said. 

Marijuana stores collect 2.9% in state sales tax, 15% as a dedicated marijuana retail sales tax, and a 15% excise tax on wholesale sales or transfers of retail marijuana. Fees come from license and application charges. Cities often add local sales taxes of more than 20%. 

“Ten billion is incredible and unsurprising at the same time,” said Truman Bradley, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, Colorado’s trade association. “The industry has partnered with regulators to do things the right way in Colorado. This state continues to be a leader in regulated cannabis.”

As for tax revenue, Bradley said, the industry understands why state lawmakers took marijuana revenue originally dedicated to drug education efforts to balance the overall budget wrecked by the COVID-19 economy. But, he said, the hope is that money will go back toward programs meant to keep marijuana away from teenagers and other drug education efforts. 

“As we emerge from the pandemic and revenues stabilize, it’s important we see those programs continue to receive funding,” he said. 

Michael Booth is The Sun’s environment writer, and co-author of The Sun’s weekly climate and health newsletter The Temperature. He and John Ingold host the weekly Sun-Up podcast on The Temperature topics every Thursday. He is co-author with...