Glenwood voters weigh marijuana tax questions
March 28, 2017
In addition to determining who will fill contested seats on Glenwood Springs City Council in balloting that is underway for the April 4 election, city voters are also being asked to decide two local marijuana tax questions.
Glenwood Issue 1 asks if the city should impose a 5 percent special city sales tax on retail recreational marijuana purchases in the city. The tax would be on top of regular city, Garfield County and state sales taxes, and would be in addition to the state's separate 10 percent retail marijuana tax.
The city also asks for the flexibility to increase the marijuana tax up to a rate of 15 percent in future years without going back to voters, but subject to a public hearing process before City Council.
Issue 2 asks if the city should additionally impose a 5 percent excise tax on wholesale transfers of marijuana products from cultivation and manufacturing facilities to the seven retail stores that are already operating or licensed but not yet open in Glenwood Springs.
“An excise tax is something that most, if not all, of the neighboring communities have adopted, and it creates a fair playing field.”Dan Sullivan owner, Green Joint marijuana shop member, Valley Marijuana Council
If approved, the city intends to use the annual revenues, estimated to exceed $500,000 based on current activity, for education and public health programs associated with legalized marijuana, enforcement of marijuana regulations and city infrastructure needs.
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Preliminary discussions with the Valley Marijuana Council have also commenced around the idea of using some of the marijuana tax revenues to help fund a regional detoxification facility, which the Glenwood Springs area has been lacking for several years.
Dan Sullivan, who owns the Green Joint marijuana shop on Grand Avenue in Glenwood and who sits on the Marijuana Council, said he supports the proposed excise tax on wholesale transactions. But he has mixed feelings about the retail sales tax, and especially the potential that it could increase to as much as 15 percent in future years.
"An excise tax is something that most, if not all, of the neighboring communities have adopted, and it creates a fair playing field," Sullivan said. Because it's a tax on the transfer of marijuana products to retail stores, the net effect of the tax is about half the 5 percent excise tax rate, he said.
Sullivan said he does take issue with the provision in the retail sales tax question that permits the tax to be increased in future years up to 15 percent without a new vote.
After meeting with the city attorney, he said he was assured that there is a means for due process before City Council, and that the provision was added as a way to more easily adjust the tax rate in future years based on market demand.
"Even 5 percent is a little more than I would have wanted for consumers, but I also recognize that there are needs that can be addressed with these tax revenues," Sullivan said. "It does make sense for our community to own this together, but I am torn on that first question.
"If we do ever get to the point of 15 percent, I see that as overreach," he said.
Voting continues in the Glenwood Springs mail ballot election until 7 p.m. April 4. As of Tuesday, out of 5,275 ballots that were mailed or provided to eligible city voters, approximately 1,000 completed ballots had been returned, according to City Clerk Catherine Fletcher.
In addition to the marijuana tax questions, voters citywide are deciding between four candidates to fill the open at-large seat being vacated by Stephen Bershenyi, who was term-limited after eight years on council. Candidates to fill that seat are Rick Davis, Jonathan Gorst, Shelley Kaup and Charlie Willman.
For the Ward 5 seat being vacated by Leo McKinney, who is also term-limited, voters in the south Glenwood neighborhoods are deciding between Don "Hooner" Gillespie, Jonathan Godes and Amber Wissing.
Rick Voorhees is running unopposed for the Ward 2 (West Glenwood) seat that is being vacated by Matt Steckler, who also will be leaving City Council due to term limits.
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