COLORADO: Colorado residents will have the opportunity to vote this November on Proposition AA, which proposes a statewide retail marijuana tax.
What it asks
“Shall state taxes be increased by $70,000,000 annually in the first full fiscal year and by such amounts as are raised annually thereafter by imposing an excise tax of 15 percent when unprocessed retail marijuana is first sold or transferred by a retail marijuana cultivation facility with the first $40,000,000 of tax revenues being used for public school capital construction as required by the state constitution, and by imposing an additional sales tax of 10 percent on the sale of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products with the tax revenues being used to fund the enforcement of regulations on the retail marijuana industry and other costs related to the implementation of the use and regulation of the retail marijuana as approved by the voters, with the rate of either or both taxes being allowed to be decreased or increased without further voter approval so long as the rate of either tax does not exceed 15 percent, and with the resulting tax revenue being allowed to be collected and spent notwithstanding any limitations provided by law?”
What it means
The measure would impose a 15 percent excise tax on the average wholesale price of retail marijuana and an initial 10 percent sales tax that could be raised up to 15 percent on retail marijuana and retail marijuana products. That would be in addition to the existing 2.9 percent state sales tax. Researchers believe the state could see as much as $130 million in tax revenues annually from retail sales. The first $40 million collected would go to school construction. The rest would be split between local governments and the state general fund for enforcement and regulation.
What supporters say
A majority of Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 to allow the sale of retail marijuana within a regulated and taxed market, and passage of this measure is expected to generate the revenue necessary to support the robust regulation of this market. An effective regulatory system also may discourage federal interference with the industry, as the sale of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Colorado schools have a projected $17.9 billion in school construction needs through 2018, and the proposed state excise tax would make more money available for these needs.
What opponents say
The new state taxes created by the measure may be so high that they undercut one of the intended purposes of Amendment 64, which is to encourage consumers to purchase marijuana from licensed stores rather than from the underground market. When marijuana is purchased from licensed stores, sales are limited to consumers 21 years of age or older. Amendment 64 requires the establishment of an excise tax but does not require the sales tax created by this measure. This second tax was not anticipated by supporters of Amendment 64 and is an unfair tax burden on consumers of marijuana.