Tax revenue on tap, if voters approve it



Generally speaking, most people would rather tax someone other than themselves, but that’s exactly what the proponents of legalized recreational marijuana are doing.

Although those pot supporters know that’s somewhat of an odd position to be in, they say they have a good reason, said Joe Megyesy, spokesman for the effort to pass Amendment 64 last year and Proposition AA this November, which would impose taxes on the retail sale of marijuana.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We sold the amendment to voters as a way to raise money for school construction, and these new taxes would do that.”

That’s also why the wording in the ballot measure voters will consider on Nov. 5 is clear, Megyesy said. Out of the $70 million in excise and sales taxes the retail sale of marijuana is expected to generate statewide, the first $40 million would go toward school construction projects.

Beyond the nearly $1 million that it’s expected to cost the state to oversee the shops and enforce state regulations on those retail shops, the rest of that money would go into the state’s general fund, its main bank account that can be used to pay for anything, from schools to health care to prisons.

None of that revenue, however, is expected to be seen in the Grand Valley, at least not for some time. That’s because local governments here have either banned retail marijuana stores, or placed moratoriums on them.

Such bans have made it difficult for state officials to estimate how much the ballot measure’s 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent sales tax would bring county by county.

The only comparison is from the sale of medical marijuana from the more than 660 dispensaries in the state, only one of which is located in the valley.

Statewide, Colorado collects nearly $6 million a year from a 5 percent sales tax on medical marijuana. In Garfield County, where there are more than a dozen medical marijuana centers, the state collects more than $100,000 a year from that tax.

Because Mesa County only has one dispensary, Colorado Alternative Health Care, 125 Peach Ave. in Palisade, state taxpayer confidentiality laws bar town officials from disclosing how much the town collects in tax revenue from marijuana sales.

But the town does assess a $5 fee on each transaction at the dispensary, and it anticipates earning $50,000 this year from that fee, according to the town’s most recent financial statements in August.

Assuming an average sale of $50 per transaction, the town would earn $15,000 a year from the dispensary because of its 3 percent sales tax, which accounts for about 5 percent of all sales taxes the town expects to collect this year.

All that money goes into the town’s general fund, and little to none of it is spent on regulatory and law enforcement of having a dispensary in town, said Town Administrator Rich Sales.

“The business we have in town takes great care to follow the rules, and the last I looked, I don’t remember seeing police calls out there,” Sales said. “Actually, (the owners) are active community members, they volunteer in the parks and help paint picnic shelters and things like that, like our other businesses. They’re a good part of Palisade’s business community.”


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