Jimmy Sengenberger

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Nearly $1 billion in 2015 Colorado pot sales?

January 15, 2016 Seng Center Blog, Society Colorado, marijuana, money laundering, pot, smoking

According to The Denver Post‘s marijuana outlet, The Cannabist, Colorado marijuana sales in 2015 may reach nearly one billion dollars in total sales.

As we reported earlier today, the Colorado Department of Revenue just released November 2015 tax numbers for the state’s marijuana shops, and our calculations show that Colorado stores sold $894,865,100 of legal pot in the first 11 months of 2015. Even though we’re still missing December numbers — keeping us from any complete, year-end figures until mid-February — the question pops back into our minds…

marijuana-leafWhat is particularly interesting about the Post‘s numbers is the differentials they calculated between medical and recreational marijuana for both 2014 and 2015.  Whereas 55% of all marijuana sales in 2014 were attributable to medicinal prescriptions, that number has decreased precipitously to just 41% in 2015 – a jump of 14% in recreational use between the two years.

It is of course important to note that Colorado’s marijuana industry is a cash-only business, as federal banks and credit unions are forbidden from holding assets tied to drugs that are illegal under federal law.  Consequently, there is no way to account for the accuracy of marijuana shops’ reporting to the state government, suggesting that the Post‘s calculations could be smaller than what is actually the case.

This possibility gives rise to two further concerns, specifically the resulting illegal activity which stems from such cash-based sales – such as pass-through sales to underage users – and the threat of money laundering to avoid paying taxes on marijuana earnings.