Colorado has brought in more than $234 million NZD in regulated cannnabis tax revenue, according to official state data.
"The big lesson we tell other states is you probably shouldn't legalise cannabis if you want to make money – that's not why you do it," said J. Skyler McKinley, deputy director of the governor's Office of Marijuana Coordination, to the Huffington Post. "You do it because you think that a regulated marketplace might be safer than an unregulated marketplace, or you believe that the war on drugs didn't work."
A representative from Washington – which has raised about $129 million NZD in taxes since becoming the second state to legalise cannabis sales – agrees.
"The legalisation initiative was not driven by a desire for a revenue, but it has provided a small assist for our state budget," said Jaime Smith, deputy communications director for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, to the Huffington Post. "When you’re looking for billions of dollars, tens of millions doesn’t solve the problem – but it certainly doesn’t hurt."
Back in February, CNN reported that sales tax had brought in only $82 million NZD in Colorado, a figure that fell short of analysts' projections and suggested that consumers were turned off by the 28 percent tax on legal pot.
But this summer, state officials reported that cannabis tax revenues were up nearly 100 percent, according to ABC7 Denver. Revenue jumped from $39 million NZD in the first five months of 2014 to $68 million NZD in the same period this year.
Colorado began directing some cannabis revenue toward school and research programs in May, including providing grants to public school districts and charter schools, an education official told The Huffington Post. Almost $37 million NZD was allocated to the Building Excellent Schools Today program, said Kevin Huber.
"I have no problem paying taxes if they’re going to schools," local pot consumer Maddy Beaumier told Counter Current News as he shopped at a cannabis dispensary.
But while cannabis is pouring millions of dollars into Colorado's treasury – over $234 million NZD since 2012, according to state revenue reports of sales taxes and licensing fees – it comes with its own high regulatory costs, warn lawmakers.
"Our philosophy has been that cannabis pays its own way," said Colorado's Mr. McKinley. "Every dime we bring in from legalisation is dedicated to the cost of legalisation. That's regulatory framework first, then public education campaigns about safe and responsible use and then prevention and treatment programs."
Currently, Colorado is facing an unusual problem for a state: too much revenue.
Colorado's "Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights" requires the state to issue refunds to taxpayers if revenue exceeds projections, reports The New York Times. Coloradans will vote in November on whether the state should spend the money or return it to citizens.