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Colorado marijuana revenues hit a new high

Director of Quality Assurance Thomas Shipley inspects drying marijuana plants before they are processed for shipping at Tweed Marijuana Inc in Smith's Falls, Ontario, April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Blair Gable

New figures from the Colorado Department of Revenue show that recreational marijuana sales continued to climb in August, the most recent month for which data are available. Recreational sales totaled approximately $34.1 million in August, up from $29.3 million the previous month.

Medical marijuana also jumped sharply in August, after several months of flat or declining sales. Medical sales figures were just under the recreational total, at $33.4 million. One goal of creating Colorado's recreational marijuana market is to shift customers away from the medical market.

The numbers suggest that work remains to be done on that front. Part of the challenge is that medical marijuana is taxed at lower rates than recreational marijuana, leading to significant price differences.

Total tax revenues from medical and recreational marijuana continue to edge upward. The state took in about $7.5 million in revenues from both markets in August, or about $45 million year-to-date.

Much of the recreational market is centered around Denver. But its slowly spreading to other areas in the state. As of August, 55 percent of recreational marijuana tax revenues were collected outside Denver County. With sales starting in Aurora this month, these numbers are likely to continue to climb.

Note on methodology

Sharp-eyed readers will note that the sales figures are a little different than what I reported on last month, and from what other outlets are reporting. This is because I spoke with economist Larson Silbaugh at the Colorado Legislative Council. He notes that Colorado retailers are allowed to keep 3.3% of state sales taxes provided they remit their taxes on time, so this should be factored into any calculations using the raw revenue data provided by the Department of Revenue.

The overall trends are the same, but the net effect is a slightly higher sales total than you'd get otherwise.