Justice shift 
creates waves 
in Colorado 
pot industry (copy)

Voters passed two measures on Tuesday to clear the way for recreational outlets to open in Grand Junction. The first ballot measure that was approved overturned a 2011 moratorium on marijuana businesses and the second issue allowed the city to tax future recreational marijuana businesses. 

About the same percentage of Grand Junction residents who voted to ban medical marijuana sales in the city in 2011 voted to allow retail marijuana on Tuesday.

About 58% of voters said yes to Ballot Question 2B, which removes a 2011 ban on marijuana sales within city limits.

At the same time, only about 55% of voters approved Question 2A, which imposes taxes on those sales.

“This will bring a lot of investment, a lot of jobs and a lot of economic diversity to Grand Junction,” said Aron Diaz, campaign manager for Responsible Growth Grand Junction, the issue committee that supported the measure. “We’re going to be really excited to work with the City Council going forward in the regulatory process as they iron everything out, and we’re looking forward to pursuing some new businesses and new opportunities in Grand Junction.”

In 2011, the last time city residents voted on marijuana, nearly 58% of the voters rejected allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. Later that same year, county voters also approved a ban on dispensaries, but by a much narrower margin.

All that happened a year before recreational marijuana became legal statewide, a law that only allowed for local retail stores to open if approved by local governments or their voters. Because of those earlier votes, both the county commissioners and the city council decided not to do so nor to put the measure before voters until now.

Retail and medical marijuana sales are already legal in Palisade and De Beque.

The marijuana industry didn’t play much of a part in pushing the two Grand Junction measures, but the main supporting issue committee raised a good portion of its campaign money from Renee Grossman, president and chief executive officer of a Basalt-based retail marijuana chain, The Plum Companies.

The companion ballot measure, Question 2B, would increase the city’s normal 3.25% sales tax to 8.25%, but only on the sale of marijuana products. It also allows that special 5% hike to increase without voter approval in future years, but no more than 15%.

That second measure also imposes a 3% excise tax on wholesale sales, and also allows that to go up without additional voter approval, but to no more than 10%.

Overall, the measure is expected to raise no more than $2.9 million the first year.

Those taxes would be in addition to the state’s normal 2.9% sales tax, a special 15% sales tax on marijuana sold in stores, and a 15% excise tax on wholesale sales.

Revenues from those sales would go to indoor and outdoor parks and recreation facilities, including the city’s trails and open spaces. None of the tax money would be subject to revenue limitations under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Right.

Since retail marijuana was legalized in the state, it has surpassed $10 billion in total marijuana sales statewide, with the state collecting more than $1.6 billion in revenues from pot taxes and fees, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

In an unrelated ballot measure, voters overwhelmingly approved Question 2C, a measure that alters a 2013 city ordinance concerning development of property near the intersection of 27 1/2 and C 1/2 roads.