Amendment 64 opponents threatening to repeal measure if tax rates aren't high, campaign says
Amendment 64 opponents are threatening to force a repeal of the measure allowing adults 21 and over to use and possess small amounts of marijuana if legislators don't approve a sales tax that's higher than necessary to cover costs.
That's the claim of A64 proponents, who have scheduled a press conference for 11:30 a.m. this morning to lay out their case.
Below, activist Mason Tvert offers us a preview.
"According to lawmakers at the State Capitol, Smart Colorado has been floating the idea of referring a measure to voters that would repeal Amendment 64 if a special sales tax of 15 percent does not pass," Tvert says, adding, "This amounts to extortion of the voters. They're being told they must approve a higher tax level proposed by legislators or otherwise the constitutional amendment they adopted in November would be repealed."
Smart Colorado's response? We reached out to the organization, and -- update -- have just received a response from spokesman Eric Anderson. He denies that Smart Colorado came up with the concept, attributing it instead to unnamed legislators. But the organization thinks the notion is worthy of consideration.
Here's an excerpt from the statement, which appears in full below:
Amendment 64 backers sold the ballot issue to Colorado voters as a way to pay for state priorities like education but increasingly it's looking like it could be a net drain on the state budget. Amendment 64 raised the possibility of new taxes on marijuana but didn't enact them. If voters don't now approve new taxes on marijuana, Colorado's budget will take a major hit and Amendment 64 will have exactly the opposite effect from what was promised to voters.In the meantime, here's some context about the tax question. As Dean Toda, spokesman for the House Democrats, explained in a marijuana-legislation update yesterday, House Bill 13-1318 deals with implementing the tax structure for retail sales of cannabis under Amendment 64. "Because of TABOR, any new taxes have to be referred to the people," he told us. "So the bill sets up a referendum this November on the creation of an additional sales tax of up to 15 percent on recreational marijuana and an excise tax of up to 15 percent."
While the excise tax is specifically mentioned in Amendment 64, a sales tax is not -- but concerns about the cost of implementing the law have risen lately thanks to a report from CSU's Colorado Futures Center. The full analysis is below, but there are its main five points:
1. The adult recreational marijuana market in Colorado will be $605.7 million and taxation of that market will bring an additional $130.1 Million in state tax revenue in fiscal year 2014‐15.The fourth and fifth items above can be seen as arguments for a sales tax. But the higher the taxes, the higher the cost to consumers -- and the likelier use will be suppressed.
2. The 15% wholesale excise tax created by the amendment will not reach the goal of $40 Million for school construction as stipulated in the ballot language approved by voters.
3. The high water mark for marijuana tax revenue is likely to be in the first few post‐legalization years with revenue flattening or declining thereafter.
4. Marijuana tax revenues may not cover the incremental state expenditures related to
5. Marijuana tax revenues will not close Colorado's structural budget gap.
Is this the Smart Colorado strategy -- to win taxes that are so high fewer people will use marijuana, thereby potentially causing the industry to fail?
Continue for more about the alleged threat to repeal Amendment 64, including the new study.