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Colorado marijuana sales clear a billion dollars in 2016 

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Last year around this time, the Indy reported that Colorado weed was nearly a billion-dollar industry. This year, we're happy to report that it's now bigger than a billion-dollar industry.

Dispensaries made $1.3 billion in sales last year, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The figure, released last week, includes both types of marijuana sales, with recreational accounting for $875 million and medical $438 million. The taxes slapped onto those transactions meant state coffers grew by nearly $200 million as a result. Per state law, that revenue will go toward school construction, health education and law enforcement. (Local tax collection is not included in that figure, so the $1.3 billion in sales actually generated more than $200 million in taxes.)

In a statement, Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson Mason Tvert said, "Marijuana tax revenue is not going to cover the state's budget, but it is going to cover important programs and services that would otherwise be left out of it. This money is just the tip of the iceberg."

Tvert had a hand in drafting Amendment 64, which legalized recreational weed in 2012. He says tax money isn't the only benefit he's seen since then.

"The state is also reaping the invaluable public health and safety benefits of replacing an underground market with a tightly regulated system," he said, adding that it shows "the system is working."

These sales figures are the highest on record, overcoming some confounding factors like the precipitous drop in wholesale prices — nearly 25 percent — from increasing supply. It's inevitable that as more states bring legal industries online, Colorado's market will see more competition. But, none of the eight states that just legalized recreational weed in November will be open for business this year so that impact isn't being felt yet. For now, we're still No. 1.

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