Written by Staff Writer at CNN

Sales of recreational marijuana surged in Colorado during the final three months of 2018 -- a statistic that surprised local authorities as cannabis production is set to more than double this year.

In that period, sales in the state surged by 48%, or $145 million, compared to the same period in 2017, according to figures released by the Colorado Department of Revenue on Friday.

The surge in sales is primarily due to growing consumer interest and the lucrative price -- currently approaching $14 per gram -- of many popular strains.

"It is my understanding that this is the first time that one quarter is larger than all four quarters put together in the last five years," Barbara Brohl, Colorado's chief financial officer, told reporters on a conference call.

The first tax revenues generated by recreational marijuana -- the only state allowed to enforce its own laws on cannabis -- have also come in lower than expected. Marijuana tax collections totalled $5.1 million, about 40% of the department's estimate.

Prices have also fallen, reducing Colorado's share of nationwide marijuana revenue, which has been estimated to be $140 billion by 2025.

"Even though we're not looking to meet our expectations, we're still working very hard to be the best tax revenue state that we can be," Brohl said.

In total, recreational cannabis brought in $276 million in sales between August and December of 2018.


But while consumption is soaring in Colorado, regulation remains far from peaceful. It's the only state that doesn't sanction it.

And as demand for legal weed continues to rise, a dispute is looming over how much power local governments should have to regulate it.

"This should have been an explosive tax," Mason Tvert, a marijuana legalization advocate, told reporters on Friday. "It's still collecting about 10% less than we had hoped."