DENVER - The debate over how much tax is needed to fund Colorado’s regulation of recreational marijuana has veered off into a new direction.
Some lawmakers are now discussing a possible repeal effort, if voters reject a marijuana tax.
Members of Smart Colorado say they’re concerned about what will happen if voters fail to approve the tax, which is intended to fund regulation of the industry.
“Our whole incentive is to insure that (Amendment 64) is implemented in a way that does not compromise the safety of our kids, our communities, our schools, or the ability of the state and our businesses to prosper,” said Diane Carlson, a Smart Colorado volunteer leader. “Are we going to shift our public dollars from our schools and other resources to fund Marijuana? That’s not what we were promised in the fall. We were promised revenues for our state and our schools.”
But Mason Tvert, who led the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol called the effort to repeal the measure extortion.
“It’s clear that the intention of Smart Colorado is to prevent marijuana from being legal, regulated and controlled,” Tvert told 7NEWS. “We hope legislators will recognize that they’re not simply trying to pass a tax, they are trying to entirely repeal an initiative that was approved by the voters of Colorado.”
Joe Megyesy, the marijuana group’s outreach coordinator, said they have polling data that shows a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana “will pass handily at the ballot.”
“According to the poll, 77 percent of the voters would approve a 10 percent sales tax,” he said.
Some lawmakers want to see a 15 percent sales tax.
Tvert said that’s not needed.
When asked why he opposed the higher tax, Tvert replied, “The goal of Amendment 64 was to eliminate the underground market for marijuana sales, and to put them above board in legitimate, tightly controlled marijuana stores. That’s what the voters wanted.”
Smart Colorado spokesman Eric Anderson countered, “The argument that they use about seeing a higher tax rate would push the market underground is a very familiar one. I heard it for decades from the Tobacco industry.”
Smart Colorado members say they want to hold the marijuana industry accountable for promises made before the last election.
When asked if his group mislead voters regarding the state revenue marijuana would generate, Tvert said, “Absolutely not. The initiative has been projected to generate significant tax revenue and law enforcement savings. We know that we are wasting law enforcement time and resources arresting and prosecuting adults in Colorado simply for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The voters wanted that to end.”
Tvert says Smart Colorado is being disingenuous.
He believes the group actually wants to the tax to fail, so that voters will have a chance to vote on a repeal of Amendment 64.
When asked if she supported the tax, Carlson said, “We are not looking to repeal. We are looking for the marijuana industry to fund its regulatory costs.”
Friday night, the House decided to lay over this legislation, known as House Bill 1318, until the end of the calendar.