Will Marijuana Tax Holiday Turn September 16 Into Second 4/20 of 2015?

Attendees at this year's Cannabis Cup over 4/20 weekend.
Attendees at this year's Cannabis Cup over 4/20 weekend.
Photo by Ken Hamblin

As you know, this year's 4/20 celebration was a huge event, with a gathering at Civic Center Park co-starring rapper Rick Ross drawing thousands and other festivities taking place throughout Denver and Colorado.

About three months from now, will you be ready for a do-over?

It could happen thanks to legislation signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper — one that establishes a one-day tax holiday on September 16.

Why? Hickenlooper has referred to the reason as a "fiscal glitch" caused by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

The constitutional amendment, better known as TABOR, requires, among other things, that taxes be refunded if the amount raised exceeds estimates — and that's happened thanks to the $58 million generated in the first fiscal year of recreational sales.

House Bill 15-1367, on view below, includes the state's attempt to hang onto the dough. The measure calls for the creation of a ballot measure this November. Voters can allow the state to keep the $58 million, which will be divvied out to school construction, marijuana education and other purposes — or they can ask for it to be returned.

Another look at Cannabis Cup 2015 on 4/20 weekend.EXPAND
Another look at Cannabis Cup 2015 on 4/20 weekend.
Photo by Ken Hamblin

The approximate amount the average person will get back from a $25 million chunk of the total: $6.10. There'll also be a tax break for marijuana consumers, reducing the rate from 10 percent to 0.1 percent in early 2016 until a $13.3 million nut is covered. Additionally, growers will receive a $19.7 million refund.

And then there's the tax holiday, authorized by this passage in the bill:

In addition to the rate-reduction refund, if actual fiscal year spending or the marijuana tax revenue for the fiscal year 2014-15 exceeds the estimates included in the ballot information booklet for proposition AA, then the rates for both the retail marijuana taxes are reduced on September 16, 2015, as required by the state constitution. Then, consistent with the authority conferred by voters through proposition AA, the rates are increased back to their current levels on September 17, 2015. Finally, beginning on July 1, 2017, and unrelated to either the potential rate reduction or refund, the retail marijuana sales tax rate is reduced from 10% to 7% of the amount of the sale.

The Events in Colorado Facebook page has already marked the date. A recent post citing Colorado vacation events prominently features an item boasting "Colorado Offers Marijuana Tax Holiday September 16."

How will retailers celebrate? We hear through the grapevine that many, if not most, will offer promotions on September 16. It's too soon to know details or if there will be an attempt to promote the tax holiday as a broader, tourist-friendly event, as opposed to simply a bargain for locals.

Right now, the state is estimating that it'll lose $100,000 on the 16th. But if the day becomes a 4/20-style party, it could miss out on a lot more.

Here's HB 15-1367:

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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