Pot regulation, taxes snared as Legislature winds down
DENVER — A last-minute effort to delay regulating the recreational use of marijuana fell through late Monday after state senators backed off on a plan to tie how to pay for it with this fall’s proposed tax measure.
With three days to go in the 2013 legislative session, a group of 24 senators from both sides of the aisle introduced a bill that would have sent a second measure to the fall ballot, a measure to bar the use of general fund money to pay for regulating marijuana stores if voters fail to approve taxing it, as called for when voters approved Amendment 64 last November.
As it stood late Monday, though, voters will see only one marijuana tax measure,which would impose a 10 percent sales tax and 15 percent excise tax on the sale of recreational marijuana that would be sold in special marijuana stores.
Because of intense pressure from some House members who promised to bog the process down, including an all-important bill to regulate marijuana, Senate leaders backed down.
“Monday night we were going to hear SCR 3 because here is the inherent problem, the marijuana industry has no incentive to support a tax increase it promised voters (benefiting schools),” said Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs. “The industry intentionally worded the initiative to force a second ballot question to the voters. We, as the legislature, do not have the authority to implement or increase taxes.
“So, we as a body will refer a measure to the ballot, and industry can oppose it — with their millions — from out of state,” he added. “The voters wanted legalized marijuana and a tax that funded schools. But, it is a strong reality that the tax will not pass. I have yet to meet an industry that supports increasing taxes on themselves.”
Senators did approve a measure to set a marijuana blood-level limit for drivers. The Senate had earlier rejected several similar proposals.
After a tumultuous day debating marijuana, the Senate left without voting on a regulation measure and a measure to tax recreation pot when sales begin in January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.