Denver sets marijuana sales tax

COLORADO: Denver City Council on Monday made several big decisions about the nascent marijuana industry, including allowing stores to sell both medical and nonmedical pot without requiring physical barriers in the shops and setting a proposed 3.5 percent tax rate.

Also, new licensing requirements will give neighbors a chance to raise concerns about public safety, health and welfare of the neighborhood at mandatory public hearings before medical marijuana centers can convert to selling retail marijuana.

“We’ve done a good job here,” Councilman Chris Nevitt said after an afternoon committee meeting.

Denver, which has about 200 medical marijuana centers, is the largest city in Colorado to opt-in on allowing retail marijuana to be sold beginning in January. The City Council has been working on establishing a licensing and regulatory framework since Amendment 64 was passed by state voters last year.

The 3.5 percent sales tax, if approved by voters in November, is expected to raise $3.4 million a year to pay for regulation, enforcement and education around the new industry. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock had wanted a 5 percent beginning tax rate. The tax would be able to be raised as high as 15 percent without a public vote.

“This will create the opportunity to deal with some of those social costs that will come as a result of an expanded presence of marijuana in Denver,” said Councilwoman Debbie Ortega.

“The whole country is watching us,” said Council President Mary Beth Susman. “Come Jan. 1, we are going to have people from all over the country asking us how is it going? We have thought about what it will mean for the future and to be among the first to legalize marijuana in this fashion.”