Marijuana: 30 percent pot tax is reasonable and voters will pass it, activist says
For one thing, a poll commissioned by Amendment 64 proponents showed that support for taxes in the range approved by the legislature was strong, with 77 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote in favor of them.
"Polling shows that almost 80 percent of the public is going to vote 'yes' on this," Vicente stresses. "And we're going to be supporting these taxes in the same way the Governor says he's going to -- and we expect law-enforcement agencies and others who want to see this model be regulated to support them, too."
Brian Vicente celebrating Amendment 64's passage this past November.
As for the level of taxation, he considers it to be "fairly reasonable for consumers. It allows people to buy marijuana from regulated storefronts for, really, the first time in history. So I don't think folks are going to be scared away from doing so by a 30 percent tax."
Of course, some people would like taxes to be even higher -- not just opponents who believe that super-expensive pot could lower consumption, but also regular backers of elevated "sin" taxes on products like alcohol and tobacco. In Vicente's opinion, though, "there's a fine point between taxing this too much and keeping a vibrant black market or taxing it an appropriate amount," thereby undermining illegal activities. "If taxes are 40 or 50 percent, I think some people might still go to the black market, but 30 percent is not too high. We want to establish a moderate amount of tax that guarantees revenue for the state without being overly cumbersome for consumers."
The worry that these taxes might not pay for the state's marijuana program is unfounded, he feels. "Every researcher, think tank and report that's looked into this in an unbiased way concludes that Amendment 64 will produce tens of millions of dollars for the state. It's probably going to be close to $50 to $60 million for the state coming out of the pockets of cartels and going into state coffers. This is going to provide a tremendous amount of funding for schools -- and we think the funding will be there."
Of the non-tax-related bills passed by the legislature, the one that troubles Vicente most is the THC driving limit, which critics say could criminalize medical marijuana patients and other regular users even when they're driving sober.
"Our concern is, 'Is this science-based?'" he acknowledges. "But we think it's good that there's now an affirmative defense for marijuana patients," as opposed to an immediate presumption of guilt if an individual tests with more than five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. "Our hope is that police won't be pulling folks who aren't impaired into the dragnet of the criminal-justice system. Only time will tell."
As for the other pot measures, he calls them "generally pretty strong. They establish a fairly comprehensive regulatory structure to go along with common-sense tax rates."
He's confident the average Colorado voter will see them as "common sense," too.
More from our Politics archive: "Marijuana taxes over 30 percent to start and other highlights from (almost) final pot bills."