As Colorado’s marijuana industry continues to grow, per capita recreational sales in Montezuma County in the first eight months of 2018 were nearly double the per capita sales in neighboring La Plata County.
From January through August, dispensaries in Montezuma County, population 26,000 according to recent census estimates, sold $15.1 million in recreational marijuana, amounting to $580 per person. Dispensaries in La Plata County, with a population of 56,000, sold $16.3 million in recreational marijuana during the same time period, totaling $293 per person.
“As far as our sales being more, I think it’s because where we’re located in the Four Corners area,” Cortez Police Chief Roy Lane said.
The new sales numbers come from a trio of reports recently released by the Colorado Department of Revenue, or DOR. A Marijuana Enforcement Division mid-year update, a monthly marijuana revenue report and an average market rate report all show the marijuana industry in Colorado is maturing.
The cost of marijuana bud and trim has fallen dramatically since legalization in 2014. Marijuana sales have exceeded $1 billion so far this year and Colorado has hauled in more than $200 million in revenue this year, according to the state agency.
“We’re continuing to see steady growth in sales tax revenue for the state,” Lawrence Pacheco, director of communications for the DOR, told The Journal.
By nearly every metric, marijuana is on the rise. In the first six months of 2018, local jurisdictions issued 183 new marijuana business licenses. Sales of marijuana concentrate products increased by 95 percent in the first half of 2018 compared to the first six months of 2017. Tax revenue has increased by 10.3 percent over the past year, according to the DOR.
According to the most recent quarterly update, from May through July 2018, the cost of a pound of marijuana bud fell $87 compared to the previous quarter, from $846 down to $759. Pacheco said the steady drop in price and growth in sales shows the Colorado marijuana industry is maturing.
Per capita marijuana sales by county show some revealing trends. According to an August 2018 market demand report for the DOR, southern Colorado border counties are selling the most pot per resident.
The region including Huerfano, Las Animas and Otero counties – easily accessible from New Mexico via Interstate 25 – sold the most marijuana per capita in 2017, with an average per resident monthly sale of $98. Las Animas County ranked highest in monthly per capita sales across the state, at $257.
Dispensaries in Montezuma County, adjacent to three states where recreational marijuana is illegal, sold $64 of marijuana per month in 2017 for every resident.
That ranks higher than La Plata, at $36; Denver, at $45; Gilpin, $50; and Clear Creek, at $60 per capita per month last year.
The DOR report states the disparity between counties is likely caused by a “significant number of out-of-state visitor purchases, which inflate the per capita calculation.”
“If Arizona and New Mexico were to pass legalized marijuana, that would have some effect on ours,” Cortez Finance Director Kathi Moss said.
Numbers from the city finance department show a significant revenue boost over the past few years. In 2016, the city brought in $62,000 from state and local taxes on marijuana. In 2017, that figure rose to $897,000. In the first eight months of 2018, Moss said the city has received $610,000 from marijuana sales.
“Obviously, it’s given us an influx of money,” Moss said.
She said a chunk of that annual marijuana revenue, around $125,000, goes toward marijuana enforcement and licensing in the city. Of the remaining revenue, she said 71 percent goes toward the general fund and the rest is divided between the recreation center loan, city equipment, city vehicle replacement and street improvements.
More revenue is likely on the way. Moss said Cortez has conservatively budgeted a 5 percent increase in marijuana revenue for the coming budget year to account for the expected continual increase in pot sales.