Colorado made $4.4 million in pot tax in first month

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Marijuana sales in Colorado brought in US$3.5 million (S$4.4 million) in tax revenues and fees in the first month retail pot outlets were allowed.

The figure included US$2.9 million in taxes for recreational and medical marijuana in the month of January, and nearly US$600,000 in fees, said Colorado's Department of Revenue on Monday.

The Rocky Mountain state had legalised pot in 2012, but made drug history on Jan 1 by inaugurating retail sales of marijuana for recreational use. It levies a 15 per cent excise tax and a 2.9 per cent sales tax.

"The first month of sales for recreational marijuana fell in line with expectations," said tax department chief Barbara Brohl, while cautioning that the size of the industry might take a few months to become clear.

Initial projections had suggested 40 businesses would be up and running on Jan 1, but in fact only 24 were by then. By the end of January, 59 businesses had filed tax returns.

After Colorado, Pacific North-west state Washington is set to follow suit later this year - even though, under federal law, marijuana remains as illegal as heroin, ecstasy and LSD.

In Alaska, campaigners are "very hopeful" of putting legalisation to a popular vote in August. Similar efforts in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and Oregon are under way, though in more preliminary stages.

President Barack Obama's administration told federal prosecutors last August to stop targeting individual marijuana smokers in states where legalisation is in place.

Colorado said that, in the first few months of retail sales, tax and fee revenues will be "significantly affected in both directions" by various factors.

A "possible increase in initial demand" could boost sales at first, while the speed with which pot shops are licenced and how readily they can get supplies, may also have an impact.

"We expect clear revenue patterns will emerge by April and plan to incorporate this data into future forecasts," said Ms Brohl.