Glenwood may ask voters for special pot tax in April | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood may ask voters for special pot tax in April

Glenwood Springs voters might get a chance in the April 4 election to decide whether to impose a special tax on marijuana sales in the city.

City Council will have a work session at its Jan. 19 meeting to discuss a possible ballot question asking voters if the city should levy a special excise tax in addition to regular state and local sales taxes for marijuana purchases.

If so, Glenwood would join other nearby municipalities that have such a tax, including Carbondale and Basalt, that could be geared toward a specific purpose such as public safety or substance abuse education for youth. The special tax rates in both of those towns is 5 percent.

Glenwood Springs currently collects regular sales taxes at the rate of 3.7 percent on all marijuana sales, including both medical and recreational.

For 2016, the city was on pace to collect about $250,000 in general fund tax revenues from marijuana sales, which now accounts for about $6.8 million in total sales within Glenwood city limits.

In addition, the city and other municipalities across the state receive a portion of the 10 percent statewide marijuana tax on recreational sales.

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That tax, approved after Amendment 64 legalized recreational pot sales in Colorado in 2012, is levied in addition to the regular state sales tax rate of 2.9 percent.

Glenwood Springs was on track to receive about $75,000 from the state tax for 2016, according to the latest Colorado Department of Revenue figures.

Many local jurisdictions, including several in Garfield County, also levy a special marijuana tax of their own that's typically dedicated for a specific purpose.

For Glenwood Springs, a 5 percent special tax could generate about $300,000 per year, City Manager Debra Figueroa informed council members last week.

That money could be used for public safety, such as increased police foot patrols in the downtown area, or possibly to support the Valley Marijuana Council's marijuana education efforts aimed at youth, council members suggested during a brief discussion at the Jan. 5 meeting.

"It would be easier to get buy-in from voters if we said specifically what those taxes are going to be used for," Councilor Leo McKinney said.

Council member Steve Davis said he, too, could support putting the question to voters if the revenues were earmarked for a specific purpose that gets at some of the issues associated with marijuana legalization.

One such effort is the city's oft-stated goal to hire more police officers so that regular foot patrols can be established in public gathering areas, especially during the busy summer season.

That doesn't require regularly trained and certified police officers, Davis said. Rather, the approach could be for the city to contract with a private security service during peak periods and special events, he suggested.

"There may be a private sector solution to that," he said.

Marijuana is legal for adults age 21 and older to purchase, grow and possess for recreational purposes in Colorado, but not for anyone younger than 21, leading to increased efforts since the passage of Amendment 64 to inform youth about the laws and the dangers of marijuana.

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