Steamboat’s pot shops sold $6.8 million worth of product last year
How much tax revenue did Steamboat's pot industry give to local taxing groups in 2014?
The city of Steamboat Springs: $271,901
Routt County: $67,975
Steamboat Springs Education Fund: $33,988
Air service: $16,994
*Tax totals are from all sales of marijuana products in Steamboat, including paraphernalia.
Steamboat Springs — Pot shops in Steamboat Springs sold $6.8 million worth of recreational and medical product last year and gave the city $271,901 in sales tax revenue.
The dollar amounts are big, but not nearly big enough to raise the eyebrows of anyone working in the city’s finance department.
“When you look at the taxable sales, it looks like a big number, but when you look at it in the larger scheme of the whole city budget, it’s not as impactful as some might think it is,” Finance Director Kim Weber said.
To put Steamboat’s marijuana sales into perspective, consider packaged alcohol sales in the city.
Liquor stores last year generated about 4 percent, or $745,721 of the city’s total sales tax revenue, while marijuana stores generated 1.3 percent.
Sporting goods in recent years have generated 7 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue, while restaurants and lodging each have brought in around 16 percent.
Marijuana revenue, which flows to the city’s general fund from a 4 percent tax on each sale, currently makes up so little of the city’s sales tax budget, it doesn’t meet the 3 percent threshold needed to show up as its own line item in monthly sales tax reports.
The city still cannot report retail and medical marijuana revenue data separately because doing so would violate its policy of withholding sales tax data if there are less than three retailers in an industry reporting sales or if one of them accounts for more than 80 percent of the revenue.
The marijuana data released by the city on Thursday does offer the public the first glimpse into the combined value of the three recreational and three medical marijuana stores in the city.
It also gives the Steamboat Springs City Council some much-sought-after data about the economic impact of the new industry.
Council members had wildly different reactions to the reported pot revenue that ranged from total indifference to a sense of embarrassment that the revenue numbers were as high as they were.
Two council members jokingly pondered why they hadn’t gotten into the marijuana business themselves, but another was concerned about the potential for pot revenue to climb.
“I guess I had hoped that marijuana wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it is,” council member Scott Myller said, adding he was embarrassed by the revenue numbers. “I guess I thought it would be lower. I’m just hoping that marijuana never is the big draw to Steamboat.”
Council President Bart Kounovsky said he had no point of reference to compare the pot revenue to, so he didn’t have any comment on it.
Likewise, Tony Connell and Scott Ford didn’t have strong reactions to the data other than it was nice to have and could be useful for the council when it makes decisions on pot policy.
Ford said he viewed it as just another revenue total from a type of local business.
Council member Walter Magill said he was surprised the numbers were so high, and the council would soon have to tackle the question of whether the city should expand the marijuana industry by allowing things like hash oil production here.
The council did agree on one thing regarding the pot revenue.
Because they feel the new industry has not created any big problems or issues, there currently is no need to dedicate any of the sales tax on anything outside of the city’s general fund.
“My thinking is because we don’t do anything on the alcohol side, we wouldn’t need to do anything on the marijuana side,” Kounovsky said.
Kenny Reisman said the city has maintained good relationships with the leaders of the local marijuana industry, and council’s focus should be on maintaining those relationships instead of extracting money from the marijuana industry and “taking away from their ability to be good stewards.”
The sales tax data is only one measure of marijuana’s economic impact in Steamboat.
In the summer, Rocky Mountain Remedies co-owner Kevin Fisher said his new employees greatly contribute to the local economy.
He said about $30,000 worth of payroll was being distributed each week to his workforce that consisted of about 50 employees at the time.
“I have employees who have bought houses and paid for mortgages with their jobs,” he said. “That’s not insignificant, and the community continues to support us.”
The state raked in $76 million in revenue from the medical and recreational marijuana industries in 2014. About $44 million of that came from recreational sales.
The figure was below the state’s initial estimate of $70 million in revenue from recreational sales during the first year.
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