Just recently, Colorado lawmakers realized that they may have to return a large quantity of the tax revenue they received from cannabis sales. The state made around $76 million in the very first year of legal marijuana, which had been allocated for use by the state to repair schools and fund important educational programs and improvement projects. However, due to a strange legal happenstance they are being forced to return almost $58 million of tax revenue to the taxpayers and marijuana growers of the state.
This rather bizarre legal quandary has forced Colorado lawmakers to scramble to find an answer to the solution, as they obviously don’t want to see a large sum of the state’s tax income that was allocated to be used to fund schools and other projects simply be returned. In order to keep the solution to this matter as fair as possible to the taxpayers, the state legislature has decided to let the voters decide whether to let the state keep the money or to have it returned to them via a tax refund.
Democratic Senator Pat Steadman and a group of bi-partisan lawmakers will begin this preparing a ballot measure that will ask voters to allow the state to keep the tax refund. The measure itself, titled House Bill 15-1367, explains in detail how the tax revenue money will be allocated and spent if the state government is allowed to keep it. Additionally, it outlines how the money will be refunded to the taxpayers and marijuana growers if the voters decide that they want the money to be returned.
“I hope the voters understand that the money is primarily going to be used for programs related to marijuana prevention, treatment, education, and that we literally have already spent some of it,” explained one of the sponsors of the ballot measure, Republican Senator Bob Rankin.
If Colorado voters, who have been known to be fairly anti-tax in their political standings, do decide to approve the ballot measure, about $40 million of it will be allocated into the public school construction assistance fund; $12 million would go to funding youth programs, cannabis education and prevention programs, substance abuse groups, poison control services and law enforcement services; and the remaining $6 million would go to the state’s general fund, which is used to fund statewide projects like park maintenance, construction projects, transportation services and public buildings such as libraries.
Unfortunately, not everyone is sold on the new spending plan and some of the more diehard anti-tax voters are adamant on being returned the money.
“It should go back to the taxpayers,” said Gregory Golyansky, the president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers. “When government tries to keep the money that rightfully belongs to the taxpayers of Colorado, it is an enormous issue. There should be a tax refund.”
If voters deny the ballot measure and it fails to pass, the entirety of the tax revenue from cannabis sales will be returned to the taxpayers through lowering of sales tax on legal marijuana, refunding some of the excise tax on the legal grow facilities that supplied the product, and a small refund sum added to the taxpayers’ tax refunds. Each taxpayer could expect to receive anywhere from around $15 to $90 in this year’s tax refund, depending on how the total tax revenue is allocated.
“We really do start siphoning off these dollars to a lot of different places, which makes it somewhat confusing for voters,” claimed Representative Jon Becker.
There’s a large amount of bi-partisan support for the ballot measure and lawmakers are attempting to encourage taxpayers to allow it to pass, looking to the benefits the money could do for the state as an argument.
But because the situation is so bizarre and confusing to the average voter, it could bode badly for the passage of the measure.
“We were trying to be very clear with the voters that marijuana was going to pay its own way and that marijuana dollars weren’t going into any kind of slush fund,” said Representative Jonathan Swinger.
While this may be a bit of a dire situation for the state, the Taxpayers Bill of Rights explains that this can’t ever occur again, as the penalty only applies to the first tax year. So, no matter what is decided, there will be no need to worry about it ever happening again – in Colorado, that is.
Taxpayers will decide on the ballot measure on Nov. 3 of this year, so there will be plenty of time for them to figure out what they believe would be best for the state and its residents.
Should Colorado be allowed to keep the tax revenue from marijuana or should the taxpayers be given back the money? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
(Photo by Taylor Kent)