Votes are still being counted, but the suspense when it comes to the two biggest measures on ballots statewide is over -- if there was ever any at all. The Denver Post has made the call on Proposition AA, the marijuana tax measure, and Amendment 66, an education proposal, with the former winning handily (the count is 64.6 percent yeah to 35.3 percent nay with 55 percent of the vote counted at this writing) and the latter getting crushed (66.1 percent "no" to 33.8 percent "yes," also with 55 percent reporting). Early reaction below. Here's the first statement about the defeat of Amendment 66, from Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who opposed it:
Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton's Statement on Failure of Amendment 66
Denver, CO -- Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton issued the following statement on Colorado voters rejecting the $1 billion education reform tax increase, Amendment 66.
"Today Coloradans rejected an imperfect bill to reform our education system that left open too many unanswered questions. Having spent the last eight months arguing that this particular bill was not the right path for Coloradans, tonight's result does not mean education reform is dead in Colorado. We will go back to the drawing board to reform our vitally important public education system the right way."
"In order to achieve effective and lasting reform for our schools, we must address one of the biggest cost drivers at the school district level, our state's badly underfunded pension system. When we join together as Coloradans to address the pension system in our state, we must do so in a way that preserves and protects the retirements of Colorado's school teachers. We must also implement real transparency that will provide the accountability necessary to ensure taxpayer money gets into the classroom, where it belongs."
"I look forward to working with Governor Hickenlooper and stakeholders from both sides of the aisle to address real education reform for Colorado's students."
And here's the take on the passage of Proposition AA from Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert, a supporter:
Colorado Voters Approve Historic Ballot Measure to Tax Legal Marijuana Sales, Which Are Scheduled to Begin on January 1
Proposition AA will generate tens of millions of dollars for public school construction, underscoring the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana instead of leaving sales to drug cartels in the underground market
DENVER -- Colorado voters approved a historic statewide ballot measure on Tuesday to establish taxes on legal marijuana wholesale and retail sales. The Denver Post called the election with Proposition AA ahead 65-35 with 65% of precincts reporting. Retail marijuana sales are scheduled to begin on January 1 in localities throughout Colorado, including the state's largest city, Denver, and they will begin in other cities throughout 2014.
Proposition AA was referred to the ballot by the Colorado General Assembly in accordance with Amendment 64, the initiative approved by state voters in 2012 to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
"Colorado is demonstrating to the rest of the nation that it is possible to end marijuana prohibition and successfully regulate marijuana like alcohol," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which supported Proposition AA and was the largest financial backer of the Amendment 64 campaign in 2012. "It is only a matter of time before voters and lawmakers in other states recognize the benefits and adopt similar policies."
Proposition AA creates a 15% excise tax on wholesale sale of marijuana for adult use (e.g. between a cultivation facility and a retail store), of which the first $40 million raised annually will be directed toward the state's public school construction program. Proposition AA also establishes a 10% special sales tax on retail marijuana sales, which will be applied in addition to standard state and local sales taxes.
"Passage of this measure underscores the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana sales instead of forcing them into the underground market," Tvert said. "Instead of benefitting drug cartels, marijuana sales will generate tens of millions of dollars annually for the state's public school construction program."
Colorado Legislative Council staff estimate that Proposition AA will generate $27.5 million in annual excise tax revenue and $39.5 million in annual state sales tax revenue (with $6 million of that sales tax revenue directed back to localities). The revenue from the new 10% state sales tax will be used to fund the regulatory structure (including enforcement of the laws for the testing, tracking, and labeling of retail marijuana and measures to prevent the diversion of retail marijuana to individuals under 21 years old).
MPP plans to work with local and national allies to pass measures to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in 13 more states by 2017. It is currently supporting a petition drive led by Alaska activists to place an initiative on the August 2014 ballot, and it will work to pass voter initiatives in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, and Nevada in the 2016 election. MPP is participating in lobbying and grassroots-organizing efforts to pass bills in the Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont state legislatures.
Also celebrating the passage of Prop AA is Joe Megyesy, spokesman for the campaign that backed the measure. His release follows:
Committee for Responsible Regulation Statement on Passage of Proposition AA
DENVER -- Today the Committee for Responsible Regulation released the following statements after Colorado voters approved Proposition AA, the statewide ballot initiative to tax commercial adult-use marijuana activity set up under the passage of Amendment 64 last year.
"The passage of Proposition AA today completes the historic process of regulating and taxing marijuana in the state of Colorado," said Brian Vicente, proponent for the Committee for Responsible Regulation and co-director of last year's Amendment 64 campaign. "We are now poised to demonstrate to the world the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition and embracing this new system. The people of Colorado today helped us fulfill the promise of the Amendment 64 campaign to steer tens of millions of dollars annually to public school construction. We have also ensured that there will be sufficient funds to enforce the regulations governing marijuana cultivation and distribution in the state. We are grateful to the people of Colorado for helping us chart this new course for the state."
"Proposition AA's passage guarantees our public safety is protected by ensuring Colorado has the funds to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors and to prevent it from flowing to the black market," said state Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver. "Colorado voters clearly recognized the importance of taxing marijuana to pay for its own regulation and by approving Proposition AA today they ensured that we will not be forced to take away from high priority areas like education, transportation and public health. Today's passage of Proposition AA shows the world that Colorado takes the regulation of marijuana seriously."
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Grover Norquist, anti-tax-hike guru, opposes pot tax Proposition AA."