Dear Stoner: How are recreational marijuana tax revenues being distributed within the state? Is this information made available to the public? I think if people see that the tax revenues are being used to help schools, fix the terrible roads and help the homeless, opinions may be changed.
Money Bags of Weed
Dear MBW: Basically, there are two sources of revenue from recreational marijuana. The excise tax on wholesale revenue is what goes toward funding school construction. Because recreational pot shops were forced to grow their own supply between January and October, those figures have been low: only $6.8 million as of August, when the state's latest tax data was released. The grow-your-own rule is over, though, so expect the excise-tax figures to rise as freestanding grow operations begin selling wholesale product to the shops.
The second tax-revenue source is the sales tax on recreational pot. We agree: It would be nice if the revenue went to fixing our pothole-filled roadways or to help the homeless, but that's not what voters approved when they voted for Amendment 64, which specifically called for a 10 percent sales tax on recreational pot to "fund the enforcement of regulations on the retail marijuana industry and other costs related to the implementation of the use and regulation of retail marijuana as approved by the voters."
Ask a Stoner
That's right: We legalized limited amounts of pot to prevent wasting police budgets on cannabis — but the cops are getting more money. As of August, the total sales tax collected since the start of recreational sales January 1 was just over $22 million. The state Marijuana Cash Fund also imposes a 2.9 percent sales tax on medical marijuana; the 2015-'16 budget proposed by Governor John Hickenlooper last week showed an estimated $33.6 million in that cash fund, and most of it will go to keeping pot users in check in one way or another.
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The good news is that the state is going to collect far more than it has budgeted for, and some of that money could be coming back to you in the form of tax credits or sales-tax refunds in 2016. That's because the state underestimated the amount that would be collected in its initial projections, and thanks to TABOR, about $30.5 million from marijuana tax collections over what was authorized by Amendment 64 will either go back to voters — or voters will have to approve letting the state keep it. Hickenlooper has tossed this decision to the Colorado Legislature, which will have to figure out what to do in the coming session. For more on this, go to the Latest Word blog.