Colorado Senate gives initial OK to a bill to impose substantial taxes on recreational marijuana

DENVER - The Colorado Senate gave initial approval Tuesday to a bill to impose substantial taxes on recreational marijuana.

House Bill 1318 would levy a 15 percent excise tax and a sales tax initially set at 10 percent on pot.  Voters will ultimately need to approve a ballot referendum on the tax rates before they go into effect.

The Senate passed with the bill on second reading -- which is considered the key vote -- just before lunch. Senators must take a final vote on the bill Wednesday -- the last day of the legislative session -- and then the House, which already approved the bill -- will have to find agreement on some Senate amendments.

Under Amendment  64, approved by Colorado voters in 2012, the first $40 million generated by the excise tax annually would go to school construction. The sales tax would be used to pay for regulation of marijuana stores.

"We have to make sure we collect enough money not to hurt other things," Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge told the Denver Post. "This has to be a self-sustaining program."

Opponents said tax rates are too high and will encourage marijuana sellers to continue buying from illegal dealers.

"I have a concern about the black market and the cartels just salivating at what is happening here at the Capitol and just hoping that over-taxation and over-regulation occurs," Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, told the Post.

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