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Colorado collects US$2 million in recreational marijuana taxes

DENVER -- Colorado made roughly US$2 million in marijuana taxes in January, state revenue officials reported Monday in the world's first accounting of the recreational pot business.

Other countries are watching Colorado, which has the world's first fully regulated recreational marijuana market. The Netherlands has legal sales of pot but does not allow growing or distribution. Uruguay's marijuana program is still under development.

Colorado legalized pot in 2012, but the commercial sale of marijuana didn't begin until January. Washington state sales begin in coming months.

The tax total reported by the state Department of Revenue indicates US$14.02 million worth of recreational pot was sold from 59 businesses. The state collected roughly US$2.01 million in taxes.

The pot taxes come from 12.9 percent sales taxes and 15 percent excise taxes. Including licensing fees and taxes from Colorado's pre-existing medical marijuana industry, the state collected about US$3.5 million from the marijuana industry in January.

By comparison, Colorado made about US$2.7 million in liquor excise taxes in January of last year. Statewide liquor receipts for January 2014 were not yet available Monday.

Colorado tax officials say the January marijuana reports were in line with expectations.

Monday's tax release intensified lobbying over how Colorado should spend its pot money. Budget-writers expect the nascent marijuana industry to be extremely volatile for several years, making lawmakers nervous about where to direct the funds.

Governor John Hickenlooper already has sent the Legislature a detailed US$134 million proposal for spending recreational and medical marijuana money, including new spending on anti-drug messaging to kids and more advertising discouraging driving while high.

State police chiefs have asked for more money, too.

Almost the entire haul from recreational pot came from Denver County, where the industry is concentrated.

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