Colorado voters overwhelmingly passed heavy taxes on marijuana, and the state has collected tens of millions in the first year of legalization.
But all of the taxes raised from pot have to be refunded, unless lawmakers can agree on a solution. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights section of the state Constitution is triggering the refund, putting money for schools and prevention programs at risk.
For now, dispensaries like Colorado Harvest Company in Denver charge 22 percent in taxes for every pre-rolled joint, vaporizer, or brownie.
It’s an expense that customer Jason Swart doesn’t mind paying.
“Just for the convenience of being able to come in, go to a store, and the selection — I think it’s well worth it,” Swart said.
Swart is new to Colorado; he just moved here from Kansas. But he recognizes that marijuana taxes help the state.
“As far as I know it goes to good things, Swart said. “Schools and roads. I know we got a lot of potholes.”
“Orwellian-type of situation”
“Legalize it and tax it” was the mantra of the pot movement in Colorado, and one of the big reasons voters approved of legalization. Now, though, the impending refunds are a bizarre turn of events that have taken many by surprise.
“This is an Orwellian-type of situation,” said Tim Hoover with the left-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute.
Here’s the issue: the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, requires the state to ask voters to approve any new taxes. When doing so, the state must estimate the money the tax would raise, and estimate the overall tax collections without it.