Marijuana taxation impacts Fort Collins

At long last, impacts of Amendment 64 are finding their way to Fort Collins.

Today, voters will decide whether or not an additional 25 percent tax on all retail marijuana products is reasonable. This 25 percent includes a 15 percent state tax on the average wholesale price of retail marijuana when it is initially sold and a 10 percent state sales tax on retail marijuana added onto the current 2.9 percent tax.

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Additionally, Proposition AA dictates that the first $40 million of the state excise tax will go to public school construction and 15 percent of the state sales tax will go to cities and counties where the retail marijuana sales occur.

AA stipulates that state legislators can increase or decrease these taxes up to 15 percent at any time.

The proposed taxes have received a wide range of reactions, both positive and negative, from those affected around Fort Collins and CSU.

On the supporting side sits the Committee for Responsible Regulation, which is satisfied with all of the proposed taxes.

“This is a positive bill that will establish the right amount of taxation in the retail marijuana industry,” said CRR Chair Brian Vicante.

But not everyone feels that this taxation is reasonable.

CSU Anthropology Professor Ann Magennis, who was initially supportive of Amendment 64, feels that the regulation is excessive for a drug that can be considered harmless, due to the lack of DUI’s and car accidents related to marijuana.

“I just don’t think pot is the bad guy here,” Magennis said.

Though many establish that a 15 percent state tax is reasonable, there are some that question the additional 10 percent tax. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) emphasizes that the regulation is especially excessive when compared to the current regulation of alcohol, when Amendment 64 stated that the two regulations would be regulated similarly.

While Colorado’s liquor enforcement budget for 2013/2014 is $2.35 million, AA’s proposed 2014 marijuana enforcement budget predicts $39.5 million.

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“Amendment 64 promised to regulate retail marijuana like alcohol and the 10 percent special sales tax does not do that,” said Rachel Jillette, the executive director of the NORML.

Though there are many with strong opinions opposed and in favor of the bill, among those most directly affected by the proposed taxes are the retail marijuana dispensaries in Colorado.

According to Vicante, Fort Collins dispensaries are overall in favor of the bill.

“The bulk of the businesses are supportive of the bill,” Vicante said. “A 25 percent tax is really quite reasonable.”

However, the Cannabis Care Wellness Center on S. College Ave disagrees.

“The general opinion is that (the taxation) is too much, too soon,” said Cannabis Care employee Ralph Crosby.

Crosby was also concerned that these taxes will drive consumers to find other sources for their marijuana needs.

“If you can buy it cheaper on the street, you will,” Crosby said.

Today, voters on each side on the issue could see a curious voting pattern, according to CSU Political Science Professor John Straayer.

“One might assume that the pot taxes would fare better than (Amendment) 66 and perhaps local taxes since they’ll be paid by fewer folks,” Straayer wrote in an email to the Collegian. “On the other hand, some voters may vote ‘no’ not because of the tax, but as an anti-pot statement.”

Whether for or against the bill, CSU students are urged by CSU president Tony Frank and by our ASCSU student representatives to vote.

“Students have the opportunity to represent themselves when voting on this bill,” said ASCSU Director of Health Mackenzie Whitesell. “I encourage students to vote.”

Collegian Senior Reporter Caitlin Curley can be reached at news@collegian.com.