If its going to be legal it might as well be taxed. Thats the decision that Colorado residents made as they went to the polls this week. According to Reuters, a new Colorado measure will impose sales and excise taxes of 25 percent on newly legalized recreational marijuana and earmark the first $40 million in revenue for public schools.
The measure was approved by Colorado voters on Tuesday and answered the question about whether or not Colorado residents were willing to tax pot rather than increase the states income taxes to generate an estimated $1 billion for Colorado schools. According to the report, Under the marijuana tax proposal, a combined 15 percent excise and 10 percent sales tax would be imposed on recreational pot sales, with the first $40 million raised to fund school construction projects.
Although both Washington and Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana last year, the constitution of Colorado left it up to the voters to decide whether it should be taxed. The governor believes the residents of the state made the right decision. He equates the taxation and regulation to the sale of liquor, which is also highly regulated. According to the polls, its estimated that 65 percent of voters were in favor of the tax and 35 percent were against.
State vows to discourage pot use by minors
The governor argued that with the legalization there were also issues that needed to be resolved. For instance, the state has not quite figured out how to eliminate the problem of drivers driving while high or the proliferation of potential drug use by minors, who may view the legalization of the drug as a green light to try it.
Not surprisingly, many in the pot legalization group were not thrilled that their drug of choice would be taxed. Some argued it wasnt the tax they opposed but rather the amount of the tax. According to Rachel Gillette, president of Colorado's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the tax is way too high. She argues that pot should have been taxed more in line with what is done for alcohol instead of what appears to her as a law-enforcement money grab."
Regardless of how the state generates the extra funds, most saw this as a win-win for public education, which some claim has been underfunded for years. With the new pot tax, education funds could be more readily available, although opponents of the measure argue there is no guarantee about how the money will be spent.
Proponents of the tax generated much publicity over the last several months, spending an estimated $10 million on their campaign. They argued that the money could be used to restore certain programs which had been cut and to fund full-time kindergarten. Proponents argued the money is just as likely to be used to pay teacher salaries or to backfill the state's underfunded public employees retirement fund.