Voters in the City and County of Broomfield will decide in November whether to finally welcome the commercial marijuana industry after Broomfield City Council approved a proposed special sales tax on retail marijuana and moved that proposal to the ballot.
After more than a decade of banning marijuana dispensaries and commercial grows, the Broomfield City Council is prepared to let a moratorium on the industry expire in February. But in order for such businesses to legally operate, they need to be taxed and licensed at the local level — and under the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the new tax must first be approved by Broomfield voters.
The council had been considering a change to the town's marijuana business ban since a study session in early June, and made it official on July 28. If approved by voters, recreational marijuana sales would add an additional 4 percent tax to Broomfield's standard sales tax, with the option of raising it up to 10 percent going forward. However, a second proposal that would have put a 5 percent tax on wholesale marijuana sales, cultivations and transfers failed.
Broomfield projections have five dispensaries generating around $2.2 million in sales tax revenue over a one-year span — though Mayor Patrick Quinn doesn't see five dispensaries opening in Broomfield during the first year. According to Quinn, local marijuana business regulations, as well as the number of dispensaries actually allowed within the city and their hours of operation, will be decided after the November election.
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"If the tax passes, I suspect the city council will want to have public hearings and talk about how many stores we should have, and how we should allow them," Quinn said before the council voted. "It would surprise me if council didn't address this in a professional manner with public input."
In November 2012, over 53 percent of Broomfield residents voted in favor of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado.
But this week, as councilmembers discussed the possible tax levels, Councilwoman Kimberly Groom wondered if they were "putting the cart before the horse" and should instead ask Broomfield voters whether such businesses should be allowed to operate in the first place before going straight to the tax proposal. There's also the matter of medical marijuana businesses: The ballot measure only references a recreational marijuana tax.
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Groom also took issue with a line allowing marijuana tax revenue to potentially be diverted from Broomfield's Health and Human Services Department — the intended recipient of the majority of the pot tax revenue, according to the Broomfield City and County Attorney's Office — to the city's general fund.
"I'm not in favor of putting this on the ballot," Groom said before voting against both the measures. "I'm very adamant that these funds stay with human-service programs, and we added the words 'for other general purposes.'"
Groom was in the definite minority, though, and the rec sales tax proposal passed. Broomfield voters will decide whether to approve the new tax in the November 3 election.
Update: This article was updated on August 3 to correct an error; Broomfield City Council did not approve putting a 5 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana wholesale transactions and transfers on the ballot. Voters will just be voting on the 4 percent tax on recreational store sales.