November 1st, 2013, DALLAS – A year after Colorado defied the federal government by declaring recreational marijuana legal, voters will decide on an appropriate tax. Next Tuesday, citizens of the state will decide if a 15% excise tax from the sale of pot will fund school construction. An additional 10% tax is also on the ballot, this fee to pay for marijuana enforcement and compliance.
Activists promoting marijuana decriminalization are disappointed with the state’s attempt to tax the new product with a fee they find excessive.
“We waged a hard battle to achieve this level of reason within the state government. Now it appears we’ve traded one racket for another, only instead of a drug war they’re selling us schools so people are less inclined to say ‘hold on a minute!’” saidPeter Andrews, an online activist living in Colorado.
Polls suggest the measure will likely succeed. “Taxes are an opportunity for marijuana to show it can play a valuable role in the community,” said Joe Megyesy, spokesman for the campaign promoting the tax measure. “We have a good lead in our polling with a steady lead around 60 percent.”
State politicians that once opposed legalization now see dollar signs. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Attorney General John Suthers support the taxation proposition.
“I think everyone sort of realizes that the die has been cast. We’re really doing this, and if we’re going to move marijuana out of the shadows, we need to regulate it and tax it,” said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver drug policy expert.
With state budgets in the red nationwide, Colorado’s move to defy the decades-old drug war policies from Washington could inspire others. Though 2014-2015 state budgets don’t include potential profits, new revenue projections are estimated at $70 million.
Other states are paying close attention to the measure in Colorado. Tristan Tucker, the Veteran Outreach Coordinator for DFWNORML echoes the activist push for treating pot like alcohol.
“Tax it like beer. Provide the same exact method of regulation (to whom you may sell the product) and taxation as used for alcohol. I would also support having no tax on privately grown cannabis, unlike how tobacco cultivation is currently handled.” Beer has a tax rate of 8% per gallon.
Economists have advised that excessive taxation could defeat the purpose of legalization. As the Associated Press reported, “if recreational pot smokers in the two states stay in the black market to avoid taxes, while the price tag for regulating a new industry balloons, marijuana legalization could suddenly look like a bad deal.
Regardless whether the measure passes, states like Colorado and Washington are proceeding boldly forward with the decriminalization agenda, an increasingly popular reform many feel is long overdue.
PHOTO: Brennan Linsley, AP