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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

First Colorado county reports taxes from sale of recreational marijuana

DENVER - A southern Colorado county with two recreational marijuana stores has become the first in the state to announce tax totals from the new industry.

Pueblo County finance authorities announced Monday that its two shops had about $1 million in total sales in January, producing about $56,000 in local sales taxes.

Pueblo County is the only place between Denver and the New Mexico state line that currently allows recreational pot stores. Its two shops were to be joined by three more opening in February.

"We recognize that the eyes of the world are watching us, and we are proud to have erected a robust regulatory environment in Pueblo County," County Commissioner Sal Pace said in a statement Tuesday.

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz projected the marijuana industry will generate roughly $670,000 in new tax revenue for his county this year. The money is a combination of a 3.5 per cent pot sales tax approved by county voters last year, as well as "share-backs" from the state on general and pot-specific sales taxes.

If Pueblo's sales continue at the January pace, the county's pot industry will make about $11.2 million in gross sales in 2014, Ortiz projected.

Colorado has more than 160 licensed recreational pot stores, all of whom had to report sales taxes Feb. 20. Most of the stores are in Denver County, which hasn't yet reported its January tax haul.

Pueblo County is the first local government to make its recreational marijuana sales tax totals public. Statewide totals are expected early next month.

Pueblo officials joked about the pot tax haul Monday in a county finance meeting.

"The irony is that the only new revenue we have coming in is in marijuana, and yet we have to open a new judicial building," Commissioner Liane "Buffie" McFadyen quipped, according to a report Tuesday in The (Pueblo) Chieftain.

County Budget and Finance Director Cal Hamler replied, "We're going to have to sell more weed."

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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