Marijuana’s economic impact continues to grow

Associate Chris Hewitt holds up 7 gram bags of marijuana buds being prepared for sale at Nature Scripts medical marijuana dispensary in Murphy, Ore., Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The dispensary is one of many across the state preparing for the first day of retail legal sales starting Thursday. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)
Associate Chris Hewitt holds up 7 gram bags of marijuana buds being prepared for sale at Nature Scripts medical marijuana dispensary in Murphy, Ore., Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The dispensary is one of many across the state preparing for the first day of retail legal sales starting Thursday. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The numbers are out, and they are smoking. According to the Marijuana Policy Group (MPG), in 2015, sales of recreational marijuana grew by 42.4 percent, to $996 million.

“I think it goes to show, if you properly regulate the cannabis industry, it has a great benefit to the economy,” Jacob Rowberry of MPG said.

The group’s research revealed legal marijuana activities generated $2.4 billion in state output, and created 18,000 new full-time positions in 2015.

“More people are moving into the regulated marijuana economy,” Rowberry said. “Were starting to divert a lot of people who were previously in the black market. So more consumers are coming to the the regulated areas like Colorado.”

Marijuana generated $121 million in tax revenue. A portion of it has been earmarked for the state’s public schools.

“This year, state schools are getting $54.2 million,” Jeremy Meyer of the Colorado Department of Education said. “You have to recognize that it’s not really a whole lot of money. With a $5.4 billion annual budget, it’s only 1 percent.”

Marijuana taxes were the second-largest revenue source among excise products in the state. They were 14 percent larger than casino-gaming revenues, almost three times larger than alcohol revenues and just 5 percent less than the lottery.

“There’s going to be a lot of people looking to us to tell the story as far as revenue and how to regulate the cannabis industry,” Rowberry said.

All signs indicate these numbers will continue to grow.

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