Marijuana: Could taxes on recreational pot in Boulder be as high as 50 percent?

If you didn't think an excise tax of 15 percent and a 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana was enough, consider moving to Boulder. The Boulder City Council is considering adding a measure to the ballot in November to create local taxes of up to another 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent sales tax.

The proposed rate is a ceiling and the council would have the power to set the tax lower. But if state and city tax measures pass, Boulderites could be looking at paying up to 50 percent taxes on pot.

According to marijuana industry consultant Shawn Coleman, the proposal has backing both from the city and Boulder's abuse and treatment community.

"One of the concerns Boulder has always had is, they want the industry funding itself," Coleman says. "And with the passing of Amendment 64, they thought, 'Would this now be an opportunity to tax all the facilities in the industry?'"

Retail pot certainly offers opportunities for increased revenue. Unlike medical marijuana sales, recreational marijuana sales will be taxable, and an excise tax would allow the city to collect from cultivation centers without retail fronts in Boulder. This tax is something Coleman says the marijuana industry supports, but not at such a high rate or in tandem with a big local sales tax.

"We're going to need to see a rate at the 5 percent range," Coleman says. "Or the result is Boulder businesses either remain medical facilities or leave the city. That would leave Boulder adult consumers with only the black market in Boulder, which is what we were trying to get away from with the passage of Amendment 64."

The projected revenue estimate from the taxes was very conservative, Coleman says. The city was looking at increases that were less than double of the amount brought in last year from MMJ dispensaries -- around $1 million. And considering the significant increase in the amount of people that will be allowed to purchase marijuana under A64, even doubling last year's MMJ total might be too low a guess.

Meanwhile, members of Boulder's abuse and treatment community advocate for the creation of a marijuana-related educational program -- one that would inform adults about managing cannabis use even as it would discourage drug use among children.

"From the perspective of the Boulder industry, we think some education is necessary," Coleman says. "So people will have a good experience with cannabis rather than a negative one from their lack of experience."

The council didn't actually vote on the tax proposal during the most recent meeting, on Tuesday night. However, members gave city staffers direction to draft the measures and left with a potential date of July 16 for a first reading.

"In defense of the council, I think some of this is a learning curve," Coleman says. "When they see how the state taxes are going to be implemented and what other cities are doing, I think they will reconsider."

Denver is set to discuss its own potential tax on Monday.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana revenues in Colorado for 2012: $199 million-plus."

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