Rifle City Council talks what to do with marijuana revenue
Rifle City Council and city officials discussed on April 20 whether they should continue to designate tax revenue made from retail marijuana sales for the Rifle Community Foundation.
The city of Rifle originally allowed retail marijuana sales in 2018, which has generated hundreds of thousands in tax revenues. More than $346,000 was collected from 2020 and 2021 in marijuana retail tax revenue. In turn, the city has used those funds to allocate at least $40,000 a year to the Rifle Community Foundation.
The Rifle Community Foundation is a nonprofit that provides charitable contributions to human and community services, as well as educational opportunities throughout the Colorado River Valley.
But while cannabis tax revenue continues to rise in Rifle, city leaders wonder if they should continue to earmark the funds for community betterment or put it in the general fund to be used to support things like infrastructure and other regular expenditures.
Recently, Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley approached the city for the possibility of using marijuana tax revenue to help fund a new affordable housing project the organization’s building in south Rifle.
The city is also discussing the possibility of funding a new detox center established in Glenwood Springs by Mind Springs Health. The city already intends to direct funds made from an opioid settlement toward the detox center, city manager Tommy Klein said.
Rifle Mayor Ed Green showed support for giving tax revenues made from retail marijuana sales to Habitat for Humanity or other charitable organizations rather than tossing it into the general fund.
“(Marijuana) affects folks in the community that usually have the hardest time paying for it,” he said. “It’s a regressive cost, and it affects the lower class more than anything.”
Green also said he never supported retail marijuana coming to Rifle in the first place.
“I think it’s blood money,” he said. “We should’ve never collected it to begin with.”
So far, the city has waived $1,000 in impact fees for a 20-unit affordable housing project being built by Habitat for Humanity. Council member Alicia Gresley questioned whether the city should allocate marijuana funds to a nonprofit organization like Habitat since it already garners millions in donations each year.
“It shouldn’t be designated separately,” she said. “But I would like to see it go toward community betterment, if that’s kids recreational activities.”
Council member Clint Hostettler pointed out that revenue made from retail marijuana should be treated like revenue made from any other tax the city implements. He showed support for doing away with earmarking the funds for specific community betterment efforts and simply using it like an excise tax for the general fund.
“These places that are creating this tax money are also creating jobs in our community,” he said. “They’re part of our community whether we like it or not, and for us to keep treating this tax money like sin money, I’m not on board with that.”
Council member Sean Strode said Green’s assertion that working-class populations are more affected by marijuana use is a generalization and isn’t as accurate as it once was. Meanwhile, In 2021 alone the city made more than $313,000 in liquor revenues.
“It’s more encompassing to people that choose to use it,” Strode said. “It’s at all income levels.”
Council member Brian Condie said the city’s current budget is already healthy and that funds derived from retail marijuana sales should be used toward community betterment. If, however, the city finds itself in a recession, only then should it use marijuana funds toward regular budget items.
“Let’s do some good for the community and, specifically, the youth in my opinion,” he said. “We can change a life with that money.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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