Counties that outlaw pot retailers want revenue
Several counties in the state that don’t plan to allow the retail sale of marijuana still want a piece of the tax revenue that may be collected on the weed, should Proposition AA pass next month that is.
Colorado Counties Inc., which lobbies the Colorado Legislature on behalf of the state’s 64 counties on various issues, plans to ask state lawmakers when they meet again in January to create a task force to look into the matter.
The ballot measure voters will consider next month would impose a 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent sales tax on the retail sale of marijuana, generating an estimated $70 million a year in additional tax revenues.
The first $40 million that is collected is to go toward school construction, but 15 percent of sales taxes collected from those sales after that money is taken out would be distributed to those counties that allow retail sales.
Some county leaders in areas of the state that don’t want retail sales, however, say impacts from the industry will go much further than where the herb is sold.
“The thought would be, can we make a case that when you buy your joint in Denver and smoke it in Jefferson County, that there are impacts associated with that consumption,” said Colorado Counties Inc. spokeswoman Annie Olson. “A portion of that (tax) could be carved out for addressing impacts.”
Olson said the measure it ultimately may ask the Legislature to consider would be loosely modeled after a state law that allows for a wider distribution of money collected from the state’s gambling tax.
When Colorado voters approved a ballot measure to allow limited gambling in Blackhawk, Central City and Cripple Creek in 1990, it included a provision allocating some of the tax revenue to deal with gambling impacts to communities in the two affected counties, Gilpin and Teller.
Years later, officials in adjacent counties began to notice impacts from gambling, too.
When Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca served in the Colorado House in the 1990s, he co-sponsored the measure with then-state Sen. Tillie Bishop, R-Grand Junction, in 1996 to create a task force examining that issue.
A year later, a bill was passed creating a Contiguous County Limited Gaming Impact Fund with money from the gambling tax.
As a result, money is distributed through grants handed out by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to contiguous counties that can show an impact.
The same could be done with the tax on retail sales of marijuana because there will be impacts to those counties that don’t allow retail sales, Olson and Acquafresca said.
“We could have retail sales as close as Rifle, and I understand that’s likely, but certainly Glenwood Springs,” Acquafresca said. “In any event, it’s an adjacent county and local users that want to go buy pot legally are probably going to go to the closest place. So, we could have impacts in a variety of forms that are difficult to predict.”
In August, the Mesa County Board of Commissioners barred allowing retail marijuana shops, with the Grand Junction City Council following suit last month. Fruita and Palisade are expected to decide the issue sometime next year.
Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, who got a bill through the Legislature this year aimed at people who smoke too much marijuana while driving, said pot legalization will have profound impacts far beyond those areas of the state that allow retail sales.
“If the negative pot impacts stopped at the community line of those cities and counties that have banned retail shops, then CCI’s proposal would be a concern for conservatives,” King said. “Like so many other examples of negative human behavior — alcohol abuse, drug abuse, violence — pot has permeated all of Colorado, and so have the negative and costly dark side impacts.
“Colorado taxpayers who do not partake of smoking dope should not foot the bill for the negative impacts of those who do,” he added. “Taxation of the product for services provided is one way to put the responsibility on the dope-smoking consumers.”