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Colorado collects $2M in recreational pot taxes

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:55 a.m. HST, Mar 10, 2014

DENVER >> Colorado made roughly $2 million in marijuana taxes in January, state revenue officials reported Monday in the world's first accounting of the recreational pot business.

The tax total reported by the state Department of Revenue indicates $14.02 million worth of recreational pot was sold. The state collected roughly $2.01 million in taxes.

Colorado legalized pot in 2012, but the commercial sale of marijuana didn't begin until January. Washington state sales begin in coming months.

The pot taxes come from 12.9 percent sales taxes and 15 percent excise taxes. Voters approved the pot taxes last year. They declared that the first $40 million of the excise tax must go to school construction; the rest will be spent by state lawmakers.

Colorado has about 160 state-licensed recreational marijuana stores, though local licensing kept some from opening in January. Local governments also have the ability to levy additional pot sales taxes if they wish.

Monday's tax release intensified lobbying over how Colorado should spend its pot money. Budget-writers expect the nascent marijuana industry to be extremely volatile for several years, making lawmakers nervous about how to spend the windfall.

Budget-writing lawmakers joke that plenty of interests have their hands out to get a piece of the pot windfall.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has already sent the Legislature a detailed $134 million proposal for spending recreational and medical marijuana money, including new spending on anti-drug messaging to kids and more advertising discouraging driving while high.

State police chiefs have asked for more money, too.

"The whole world wants to belly up to this trough," said Sen. Pat Steadman, a Denver Democrat who serves on Colorado's budget-writing Joint Budget Committee.

Other countries also are watching Colorado, which has the world's first fully regulated recreational marijuana market. The Netherlands has legal sales of pot but does not allow growing or distribution. Uruguay's marijuana program is still under development.

Colorado's pot revenue picture is further complicated by the state's unique budget constraints, known as the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights not only requires voter approval for tax increases, it limits budget-writers when those taxes earn more than the figure posed to voters. Last year's pot vote guessed that the taxes would produce $70 million a year, and it's not clear what lawmakers can do with tax money that exceeds that figure.

Colorado's JBC plans a Wednesday briefing with lawyers to lay out their options for spending pot taxes beyond $70 million.

"There probably is a tendency to want to just grab on to this revenue from marijuana and feed my own pet projects, and I don't think it's going to be that simple," said Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs and another JBC member.

Colorado's 2014-15 budget is under debate now and does not include any anticipated recreational marijuana taxes.

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kainalu wrote:
In a few days over 2-months, Colorado has reaped $2-mil in tax revenue for something that people were doing anyway. Stretch that out over a year, then 2-years, then 3 - and you're talking SERIOUS tax-revenue, again, for something people are doing anyway.
on March 10,2014 | 01:01PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
The State of Colorado is now the drug kingpin......
on March 10,2014 | 01:10PM
PCWarrior wrote:
Colorado and Washington are progressive out of the box thinkers who are creating revenue for their residents and freeing up their law enforcement professionals to chase after real crime. Unfortunately, Hawaii legislators are too timid and small minded to create revenue through things like weed or lottery. They'd rather just tax us till we can bleed no more.
on March 10,2014 | 02:14PM
serious wrote:
Agreed. Hawaii has always had marijuana use and illegal gambling--we're still going to have the problems--but why not give them the sign of the cross and get some revenue????
on March 10,2014 | 04:32PM
BlueDolphin53 wrote:
That's the reward. What's the cost? More death on the roadways....more crimes committed by people not in their right mind. Let's see how work productivity, family issues, addiction problems come into play. The cost may be greater than the return.
on March 10,2014 | 02:36PM
Bdpapa wrote:
I'm with you. We don't need another intoxicant to be legalized. They can keep their 2 mil. The future generations are worth much more than that.
on March 10,2014 | 02:40PM
BlueDolphin53 wrote:
The one argument I don't understand is when people say, "well, booze is already legal, so why not legalize pot?" Or "legalizing drugs only affects the user and they should be free to do what they want." Oh really??? So you can guarantee me that the dope head will stay locked up in his room until he's sober, not get behind the wheel of a car, not start getting stupid playing with a gun, etc. We have enough "legal" methods for losing your senses and good judgement. Why add another means?
on March 10,2014 | 04:38PM
PCWarrior wrote:
Future generations, like those in the past, are going to smoke weed whether it is illegal or legal.We may as well face reality, not legislate morality, and legalize. If you drive stoned, you should be arrested just like alcohol.
on March 10,2014 | 04:40PM
SteveToo wrote:
Pakalolo makes you mellow. People smoking it won't be committing crimes like those on Meth. I'm all for it. But beware if you own a firearm. The fed's still say it's illegal and if you register for it to use as a medicine they could show up and take your guns using some federal law.
on March 10,2014 | 02:48PM
BlueDolphin53 wrote:
Ahhh.....you weren't sampling when you posted this were you?? :)
on March 10,2014 | 04:33PM
hanabatadayz wrote:
i guess you've never smoked weed before..legalize it and make it cheaper than meth and hawaii will be a more safer place
on March 10,2014 | 05:24PM
gari wrote:
another ends justify the means ...:(
on March 10,2014 | 03:33PM
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