DENVER — Marijuana’s journey in legalization takes another step in Colorado when voters decide Tuesday whether to tax it more for the sake of schools and enforcement.
Proposition AA asks voters whether to approve a 15 percent pot excise tax to pay for school construction, plus an extra sales tax of 10 percent to fund marijuana enforcement. The taxes are estimated to bring in $70 million a year.
Some pot activists oppose the tax, saying marijuana should be taxed like beer, which is taxed at a lower rate. To show their displeasure with the suggested taxes, they’ve staged rallies where they’ve handed out free joints.
“It’s simply too high and it’s completely unfair to the enduring ambition of the movement,” said Miguel Lopez, volunteer coordinator for the small opposition campaign to Colorado’s pot tax measure. He added that the goal was for marijuana “not to be exploited by big business and big government.”
Proponents of the tax, which include pot legalization advocates, argue it’s a chance to prove the marijuana industry can benefit communities. They also see it as honoring the will of voters who approved the recreational use of marijuana last year with the assurance that there would be a tax to fund school construction.
“We promised voters that the measure would provide tens of millions of dollars annually for public school construction,” Brian Vicente, one of the supporters of the tax and a leading advocate for legalization, said in a statement before the election.
Regardless of the outcome, retail pot stores opening Jan. 1 will still be subjected to a 2.9 percent sales tax to fund marijuana regulation.
Many municipalities are counting on the windfall from additional taxes to deal with unexpected consequences of marijuana legalization. Even counties that are choosing to ban retail pot shops have indicated they want a share of any additional tax revenue.