As the number of medical marijuana shops and dispensary-related crimes in Colorado Springs has fallen over the past five years, medical pot tax revenue in El Paso County has soared.
Data from the city of Colorado Springs, its police department and the Colorado Department of Revenue show interesting trends as the marijuana industry matures amid growing pains that have attracted national attention, including the cash-only nature of the business.
In June 2010, Colorado Springs had 303 unique addresses or locations associated with medical marijuana licenses. Medical marijuana stores and growers were the targets of burglaries or attempted burglaries 42 times that year.
Now, the city has roughly half as many unique licensed locations and almost nonexistent burglaries.
As of June 26, Colorado Springs had 152 actively licensed locations dealing with medical marijuana. Twenty more are pending. Burglars have attempted or succeeded to steal from such businesses four times this year, as of mid-June.
"One of the reasons that has gone down significantly is because of the surveillance and safety precautions medical marijuana dispensaries have put in place, such as locks and bars on the windows," said Lt. Catherine Buckley, Colorado Springs police spokeswoman. "We call it 'target hardening.'"
But it's also a sign that the industry is getting stronger, said a Colorado Springs economist. Tom Binnings, a senior partner at Summit Economics, LLC, said he predicted El Paso County's tax revenue from medical marijuana would top $2 million this year based on tax revenue collected through April. That's more than double what the local businesses brought in during fiscal year 2011-2012, when revenue was just less than $1 million.
Recreational marijuana isn't sold inside Colorado Springs city limits, and revenue data reflects only medical marijuana taxes.
In new industries, it's common for the market to be saturated at first with everyone wanting a piece of what potentially could be a great business venture, Binnings said. Everyone jumps in right away, and weaker players are weeded out gradually.
The "washout" was completed by 2012, Binnings said, when the number of Colorado Springs locations with marijuana licenses bottomed out at 127. Since then, the number of licenses and licensed locations has slowly but steadily increased. Tax revenue continues to climb.
Decreased crime is another indicator to Binnings that the industry is growing up.
"To me, that's a pretty clear indication that the industry has gotten much more sophisticated, and the burglars know it," he said. "They have learned to mitigate that risk and it's not worthwhile."
Contact Kassondra Cloos: 636-0362
Twitter: @Kassondra Cloos