Pueblo County sees windfall from retail pot taxes

(Photo: CPR/Megan Verlee)
<p>Customers who arrived at Northern Lights dispensary in Edgewater found themselves waiting in line for over an hour before they could even enter the store. Each new batch of buyers allowed inside were met with cheers from the staff for their patience.</p>
Photo: Recreational Marijuana Sales Start - Pueblo 5
These shoppers excitedly display their purchases at Marisol Therapeutics in Pueblo West.

Newly released sales tax figures show the two stores had about $1 million in sales in January, creating $56,000 in sales taxes.

That includes the county’s special 3.5 percent tax on marijuana purchases and other county and state taxes.

Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace says that revenue is more than expected.

"Like a lot of local governments we’ve had tough financial times, more expenses coming in for our county at the same time we’ve seen a decline in revenue," Pace says. "And actually this is a much-needed boon for our county coffers."

If the trend continues, Pace says the taxes could generate about $670,000 for Pueblo County at a time when the county faces budget cuts.

"Every single department has been cut," Pace says. "We are not even in the discussion of growing county government at this point. We need to look at our reserves and building them back up prior to the great recession hitting.

Not all communities are sharing their figures. The town of Telluride, for example, says it doesn’t want to provide specific information about sales taxes collected from its three marijuana retailers for confidentiality reasons.