Marijuana: Inside Michael Hancock's plan to divide Denver's pot-tax revenue

One of the biggest arguments for the passage of Amendment 64 was the potential tax revenue limited recreational marijuana sales would generate -- and yesterday, the Denver City Council Government and Finance Committee met to discuss how to spend the city's share of money.

City Budget Manager Brendan Hanlon and Executive Director of Marijuana Policy Ashley Kilroy outlined a plan proposed by Mayor Michael Hancock that would divvy up the estimated $3.5 million Denver is due to receive this year from retail marijuana taxes.

The proposal earmarks almost $1.8 million of the tax revenue for the regulation of Denver's recreational marijuana industry, $825,000 for more law enforcement positions and $746,000 for public education and studies on the risks and effects of marijuana.

"This is a new industry and we're at the forefront of it," Kilroy said during the meeting, which the Mayor did not attend. "So far we've focused on issues that are safety-related."

The funding set aside for regulation would be used to hire retail marijuana administrators such as health inspectors for growing operations and edible manufacturing, fire safety inspectors, tax auditors and other mundane but essential positions.

The funding for recreational enforcement calls for hiring new police officers, forensic scientists and a detective, as well as more positions at the City Attorney's Office. All of the 22 positions are limited to a maximum duration of two years, Hanlon said.

The smallest portion of tax revenue would go towards public education aimed toward children and marijuana laws and a data study on the amount of marijuana-related hospital visits in Denver.

Several city council members expressed their concern with the lack of educational funding for children ages eight to fifteen. Hanlon agreed with the need for such efforts but said he wants to take a tentative approach while in this "constant state of evaluation.

"Additional work needs to be done in education," Hanlon explained. "We want something that's effective. We don't want to just add money to education and hope there is an impact."

A total of $500,000 from the educational budget would be used for youth marijuana prevention in partnership with the State of Colorado, with programs aimed at reaching children expected to appear on a variety of media platforms.

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Despite some small disagreement with the amount of money going towards youth-smoking prevention, all of the council members were pleased with what they called a "patient and cautious approach" taken by the city budget and management office in the spending of this new tax revenue.

More from our Marijuana archive circa August 2013: "Marijuana rules in Denver: City Council's 39 key decision points"

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