Marijuana retail bans: Could they lead to November tax ballot issue defeat?

Categories: Marijuana

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Back in May, marijuana attorney Brian Vicente, who co-authored Colorado's Amendment 64, expressed supreme confidence that state voters would approve taxes on recreational pot sales in the 30 percent range this November. But a lot has changed since then, including dozens of recreational cannabis-sales bans in communities such as Colorado Springs.

While some observers feel these developments could endanger the tax measure, Vicente disagrees.

Earlier this year, lawmakers were so afraid Colorado voters wouldn't approve A64 taxes that they almost voted to repeal much of it due to fears about being saddled with an expensive regulatory system and no way to pay for it. Vicente, though, dismissed such concerns at the time.

"I think this has been a straw-man argument from the beginning," he told us after the repeal effort failed. "There is almost no voter out there who's going to vote against these marijuana taxes. We are going to win this in a landslide."

What made him so certain? 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.

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Brian Vicente.
"Polling shows that almost 80 percent of the public is going to vote 'yes' on this," Vicente stressed. "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."

Since then, according to one report, 56 communities have banned recreational pot sales, while only eleven are leaning toward allowing it.

This disparity raises the question of turnout for the November election -- an issue that has proven key when it comes to marijuana measures. Example: California's Proposition 19 failed in 2010, a non-presidential election, while A64 passed in 2012, a presidential year during which more young voters tend to show up at the polls.

With that in mind, the scenario for the tax measure failing in November goes something like this: The sort of voters likely to approve of such taxes may not go to the polls during an off-year election if their communities have banned recreational sales, leaving older, more conservative folks apt to oppose progressive pot policies to win the day.

Vicente's response?

"I think most folks even in areas that are not choosing to move forward with marijuana stores right away are still supportive of taxing consumers who use this product," he says. "They understand we need a regulatory structure overseeing these businesses even if they won't immediately be in their community."

His mention of terms like "right away" and "immediately" isn't coincidental. He believes the estimate of eleven communities allowing recreational sales is low.

"By the end of the year, I think we'll be closer to fifteen or twenty municipalities that will move forward," he predicts. "Aurora, for instance, is looking at accepting applications for retail shops in the middle of next year. A smaller handful will move forward January 1 -- maybe ten or a dozen. But there are some other major communities looking at moving forward shortly thereafter."

He equates the pace to the progress of the medical marijuana industry. "At first, when it was a new policy, certain communities were maybe a little more forward-thinking in choosing to move ahead quickly. But over time, we predict that once these stores are up and running, generating tax revenues and jobs, the surrounding communities will want to get on board as well.

"Look at Denver and Aurora," he continues. "Denver has had a fairly successful medical marijuana regulatory structure in place, with hundreds of stores and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue. I think Aurora voters looked at that, and by a vote of 56 percent, they said, 'We want it in our community, too.' And thankfully, the city council there looked at it and said, 'We'll try to get rules up and running next year.'"

By which time he feels certain Colorado voters will have given their go-ahead to taxation and regulation.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: 30 percent pot tax is reasonable and voters will pass it, activist says."


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25 comments
DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

The lying liars behind A64 offered to TAX THE SHIT out of marijuana as bait to voters and government to pass that turd ... and the electorate agreed to REQUIRE the Legislature to enact a $40 MILLION per year excise tax on pot -- and an UNLIMITED amount in a few years.

Obey The WILL of the Voters and hold the A64 pimps to their promise -- TAX the SHIT out of Marijuana !!


Pam Stiffler
Pam Stiffler

When the taxes end up around 40% in Denver people might want to speak up to their legislators. About 7% less outside of Denver but I haven't spoken to dispensaries in other areas to know what their local taxes are going to be

George
George

Seems like Lyin' Brian is playing a little fast and loose with his polling numbers. Has Westword seen the actual polling questions and numbers? Colorado has historically voted against all tax increases. Why on earth would a 30% tax on cannabis pass?

Seems like Brian is inflating his numbers, or just pulling them out of his ass, in order to get the gullible population that voted for A64 to think that voting for more taxes is good for them. 

Let's see your poll questions and methods, Lyin' Brian. Stop trying to fool the voters.

publius.ceasar
publius.ceasar

Ha!  I am absolutely going to vote against the taxes come November. If the taxes matched the taxes on alcohol and included the regular sales tax - I'm cool with that. Special excise and sales taxes above and beyond that? Fuck NO! Local city taxes above and beyond normal sales tax? Fuck NO!. I don't want them to have the money to "specially regulate" cannabis beyond that of any other commodity product - like say the bulk pipe tobacco I buy from the smoke shop or the 1.75 litre bottle of bourbon the wife picked up for our party last weekend. No special taxes. Regulation should be paid for by the license fees that growers and retail sellers pay (already too high) and the normal sales taxes that apply in any municipality.

Travis Santoro
Travis Santoro

So backwards as they push for taxes on the state level when still illegal in the federal level. Any organization collecting tax on it should either completely back the industry or should not be allowed to cash the checks. Giving banks a green light against prosecution instead of simply legalizing for all creates a monopoly and shows money is controlling how this is being structured not morals or values.

Travis Santoro
Travis Santoro

It is a money grab. Taxes needed for regulation?!? Same taxes that will keep the black market alive, right? Kinda self-fulfilling huh? They had no problem regulating zero tolerance, and why didn't they mention before that their war on drugs was under funded? But as soon as it is tolerated in society the higher ups all of a sudden need to profit from it? FIRST 40 million to schools!!

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

"Earlier this year, lawmakers were so afraid Colorado voters wouldn't approve A64 taxes that they almost voted to repeal much of it ..." -- that was not within the scope of the constitutional prerogatives of the General Assembly.  The problem derives from the prohibitionists, who ginned up fears of licit cannabis and saddled Colorado with an expensive regulatory system.  The Establishment is determined to fight the will of the People in any way it can, and so the General Assembly imposed any unworkable regulatory scheme, proposed an extraordinary 10% sales tax surcharge on top of the 15% excise tax offered by voters, and re-instituted all the felonies for cannabis.  The plan now is full employment for all narcs, a big cut for Dr. Thurstone & Co. as soon as it can be arranged, and to keep felonizing people outside the regulated system for cannabis.  The General Assembly has the constitutional authority to propose a sales tax surcharge and an excise tax on cannabis to voters, but that does not comport with the intent of the Amendment, in which voters authorized up to a 15% excise tax, and which is to establish a regulated market that will eliminate illicit trade.

Your analysis ignores this point of view in favor of Brian's cant.  Any number of people who use cannabis and who don't use cannabis already planned to vote against all the many taxes proposed by all the unrepresentative swine jostling at  the government trough.  I am willing for State and local governments to reap the windfall of a 15% excise tax on wholesale transfers of cannabis and enormous increases in sales tax revenue (despite abundant evidence that much of this money will be misspent), but I and many others who use cannabis will oppose all the other unjustifiable proposed taxes on it.  Since the General Assembly ignored the Amendment by trying for both taxes at once, it can wait until next year to ask for what the Constitution authorizes.  You should at least have framed the issue as being whether general discontent with prohibitive, extra-constitutional taxes combined with local disapproval of retail sales could scuttle the tax measures; I certainly hope so!  Your conceit that younger, more progressive voters will tow Sensible's line is offensive.  It is just possible that Brian, VIP that he is, does not have a political crystal ball, that his polling months ago does not guarantee victory in November, and that even his coalition in unholy alliance with Hack and the GA cannot impose taxes counterproductive to his ostensible ends, and far greater than voters authorized on November 6, 2012.

Vote against all ballot issues imposing taxes on cannabis; none are what We the People voted for last November!

Veronica Crowell
Veronica Crowell

They are going to tax it too high and it will remain on the black market. The powers that be really need to think this one through.

Keith A. Badje
Keith A. Badje

Part of this article makes no sense at all. I would think that it being an off year election, more older/conservative/anti-pot voters would turn out, complete with the mindset of "if it's going to be legal, tax the hell out of it." And, frankly, I have no issue with that. Cigarettes are nothing but tax, alcohol is heavily taxed, this should be taxed too.

Che Harness
Che Harness

I will vote against the measure, and I don't oppose "progressive pot policies". I don't believe in taxing marijuana higher than any other product or the need to regulate it. Certainly no need to regulate it any more than we regulate home brewing or breweries.

Steve At Work
Steve At Work

Matt, You can grow your own without tax. The tax applies to commercial and retail sales. You don't have to buy it at a store and pay tax. It's convenient and some don't mind the tax for that reason. Don't like the tax? Grow it.

Roy Medina
Roy Medina

If it's going to help our community and city grow than I'm for it!

Matt Hazelton
Matt Hazelton

fuck taxes its a damn plant. You should be able to grow it just like tomatoes

Fitz Greg
Fitz Greg

I don't even smoke it, but I would vote against it. Should be taxed just like alcohol & cigs! Instead they want to add all these extra taxes to it is nuts!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 "There is almost no voter out there who's going to vote against these marijuana taxes. We are going to win this in a landslide."

If MASSIVE NEW TAXES -- levied upon marijuana users -- is a "win" 

With McActivists like lyin' Brian on their side, who needs the DEA or IRS ??


Monkey
Monkey

Hey Vicente,

If "we need a regulatory structure overseeing these businesses", shouldn't the businesses pay for it? Just because voters voted for a excise tax to fund school construction, doesn't mean they'll vote to fund a MED weed army, armed with guns, surveillance equipment, patio furniture and new SUV's. We the people don't think weed is that scary or harder to regulate than alcohol. If these regulators can't pay themselves enough through the outrageous license and application fees, they should raise the fees, not taxes.

Fuck commercial weed, and the bureaucracy that surrounds it. Grow your own or get it from someone with some skills. Anyone willing to pay the government for their weed deserve a 1000% tax, but they don't deserve respect. 

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay False -- the voters authorized up to a 15% excise tax on wholesale transfers of cannabis, not a 10% sales tax surcharge by the State, sales tax surcharges by localities, or any other tax.  If and when voters approve the excise tax, the General Assembly will not be able to increase it without voter approval.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

@Half Aspen "The tax"?  I have no problem with the 15% excise tax or all the sales tax revenue governments would get -- I will vote against all the taxes (plural) proposed by the GA and local governments, because all represent extra taxes (plural) not authorized in Amendment 64, and all these extra taxes are totally unjustified!

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

@Boronado Montoya Puñez That is not the choice -- the People of Colorado declared legal some limited use of cannabis, and the General Assembly cannot change that.  Vote against the extra-constitutional taxes and the State is still obligated to regulate the retail sales of cannabis to adults.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

@Fitz Greg Cannabis' effect on public health is very much less harmful than either alcohol or tobacco, which makes the extra taxes even crazier.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Monkey ... Vicente says Big Government Regulation Works! ... and he is on record as favoring STRICT Regulation of marijuana, so that cops are free to bust the BAD marijuana users and growers ... those who would dare exceed the pathetically puny prohibitionist limits set by his festering turd A64.


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@RobertChase ... A64 MANDATES that the GA IMPOSE a 15% Excise Tax -- increasing to UNLIMITED in a few years -- under the pretense of generating AT LEAST $40 MILLION in Annual Revenue.

The VOTERS APPROVED that MANDATE -- and that UNLIMITED Excise Tax -- when they approved A64.

The Voters have Spoken!


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