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Sales of marijuana in Colorado totaled nearly $153 million in July and topped $1 billion for the year to date, according to the latest figures from the Colorado Department of Revenue, released Sept. 12.

But if the current year-over-year decline continues, sales for the year could hit about $1.8 billion — the lowest annual total since 2019.

July sales rose slightly from June sales of $146.4 million but were down more than 24 percent from July of 2021. July was the 14th straight month with a year-over-year decline, according to the report.

Recreational marijuana sales topped $135.5 million in July, but medical marijuana sales dropped to $18.3 million — the lowest monthly total since 2014.

The state collected $27 million in marijuana tax and fee revenue and has collected more than $225 million for the year to date.

The monthly marijuana sales report summarizes total sales at medical and retail marijuana stores.

Tax revenue comes from the 2.9 percent state sales tax on marijuana sold in stores, the 15 percent state tax on retail sales and the 15 percent excise tax on wholesale sales and transfers of retail marijuana. Additional revenue comes from license and application fees.

In Colorado Springs, medical marijuana sales tax collections mirrored the declines at the state level.

Medical marijuana sales tax collections totaled $124,687 in July, down from $188,008 in July 2021 — a decline of almost 34 percent.

Cannabis appeal fails

An attempt to challenge the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance was unsuccessful in a recent appeals court case.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said that the classification is “irrational” but not unconstitutional, according to a Sept. 13 report from NORML.

The Aug. 31 decision came in the appeal of two defendants who were charged in western New York with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, in violation of a U.S. statute.

They asked the appeals court to dismiss the charge on the grounds that the classification of marijuana under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act violates their Fifth Amendment due process and equal protection rights.

The defendants argued that marijuana does not meet the legal criteria for a Schedule I substance — drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

The three-judge panel upheld a district court’s verdict and ruled that the classification does not violate the defendants’ due process or equal protection rights.

“It is irrational for the government to maintain that marijuana has no accepted medical use,” the judges wrote. But that argument isn’t enough to compel a finding that the Schedule I listing is unconstitutional, they said.

“This ruling is disappointing but not unanticipated,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano says in a statement about the case, noting that other federal courts have also refused to strike down the Schedule I status of cannabis.

“Judges have repeatedly ruled that it is the responsibility of federal lawmakers, not the courts, to repeal the federal prohibition of marijuana,” Armentano states. “Rather than expect relief from the federal courts, citizens need to continue to pressure their federally elected officials to repeal this admittedly ‘irrational’ and destructive policy.”

Pot during pregnancy

Studies continue to show that use of cannabis during pregnancy poses risks to children.

An investigative report published Sept. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics (JAMA Pediatrics), found that children exposed to cannabis in the womb showed higher rates of depression, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions as they edged toward adolescence. 

Researchers from the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis conducted a follow-up to their 2020 research that showed children 9-12 years old who had been exposed prenatally to cannabis were slightly more likely to have sleep problems, lower birth rate and lower cognitive performance, according to a Sept. 13 report in Neuroscience News.

The new research found that these conditions persist in preteen kids who are headed toward adolescence — a time when children are at greater risk for psychiatric disorders and substance abuse.

“Dramatic increases in cannabis use during pregnancy are alarming because of evidence that prenatal exposure may be associated with a host of adverse outcomes,” lead researcher Dr. David Baranger wrote in a research letter published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The data the researchers used came from the “Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study,” an ongoing study of nearly 12,000 children and their parents or caregivers. The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Once those who were exposed to cannabis in utero hit 14 or 15, “we’re expecting to see further increases in mental health disorders or other psychiatric conditions — increases that will continue into the kids’ early 20s,” Baranger says.