Marijuana Tax Increase Proposal Pulled From Denver Ballot

Stop at your bank before hitting up a dispensary, unless you want to be stuck with ATM fees.
Stop at your bank before hitting up a dispensary, unless you want to be stuck with ATM fees. Scott Lentz
A Denver ballot measure proposing a 4.5 percent increase in recreational marijuana sales taxes to fund out-of-school learning programs for Denver children has been pulled from the November election. The proposal had been pushed by My Spark Denver, which confirmed that it has now withdrawn it.

According to My Spark Denver spokeswoman Bethany Morris, the measure was pulled by proponents after agreeing with the City and County of Denver to create a pilot program that will provide new educational resources for several thousand children.

"The My Spark Denver coalition, in partnership with the City and County of Denver, is pleased to announce a pilot to provide free afterschool and summer learning and enrichment programs to more than 4,000 students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. With the announcement of this pilot project, we are withdrawing the My Spark initiative from the November ballot," says a statement from Morris.

Details about the pilot program, including its proposed funding and path for approval through Denver City Council, are still being finalized and will be announced sometime next spring, according to Morris.

My Spark Denver's original goal was to raise around $22.5 million annually between the proposed dispensary tax increase and a 0.3 percent appropriation of the city's current pot tax revenue. The fund would have offered $1,000 stipends for Denver families to pay for learning enrichment programs, according to My Spark Denver. But the ballot measure faced significant pushback from the marijuana industry, which currently operates under a 26.41 percent sales tax.

"In pulling this initiative, proponents clearly recognized that community leaders and voters do not support increased taxes on consumer cannabis and want to protect this critical industry made up of hundreds of small businesses," Marijuana Industry Group board chair Tiffany Goldman says in a statement. "This is the second time in as many years that campaigns viewing the cannabis industry as a piggy bank for personal projects have lost. Denver voters know this industry is too important to be a target moving forward."

Colorado voters rejected a proposal similar to My Spark Denver last November. Proposition 119 had asked for a 5 percent increase in marijuana sales taxes statewide to help fund a new out-of-school education program. Both Prop 119 and the My Spark Denver campaign are projects of Gary Community Ventures, which spent over $1 million to push Prop 119 and was responsible for all $270,000 of My Spark Denver's contributions so far, according to the Denver Clerk and Recorder's Office.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell