EAGLE COUNTY — A year ago, Coloradans legalized recreational pot, and Tuesday they decided pot should pay its own way.
Two-thirds of Colorado voters slapped a 25 percent tax on recreational marijuana to help fund enforcement efforts intended to forestall potential federal intervention. In Eagle County, the pot tax passed by more than a 2-1 margin.
The first $40 million the tax raises goes to build and renovate schools in rural areas. That requirement was written into Amendment 64 legalizing marijuana, and passed by Colorado voters one year ago.
“We will see more opportunity for rural schools from a capital standpoint,” said state Sen. Gail Schwartz, whose state Senate district includes Eagle County.
That $40 million goes into Colorado’s BEST program, Building Excellent Schools Today. That fund was launched in 2008 and was depleted last year. Amendment 64 earmarks some marijuana taxes will help replenish it.
The BEST fund pumped more than $9 million into the construction of the Eagle County Charter Academy.
Proposition AA will also fund a recreational marijuana regulatory system drawn up by a bipartisan team of legislators, led by Sen. Cheri Jahn, a Wheat Ridge Democrat.
“We worked tirelessly to create a regulatory framework for recreational marijuana — literally starting from scratch, as no previous model existed in the nation,” Jahn said.
The marijuana taxes will be paid only by those who purchase the product, Jahn said.
Prior to Tuesday’s election, polls showed a majority of voters supported the 15 percent excise tax on the wholesale price of retail marijuana and a 10 percent sales tax to regulate it.
That 25 percent tax burden will come on top of local levies and a 2.9 percent state sales tax. In some areas, the cannabis tax will climb as high as 35 percent.
The pot tax put the state’s existing medical-marijuana firms in the unique position of asking for a tax on their own businesses. For now, they’re the only ones allowed to sell recreational reefer.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.