Governor gets behind Eagle County’s 1A ballot issue; town of Eagle also looking to change pot taxes | VailDaily.com

Governor gets behind Eagle County’s 1A ballot issue; town of Eagle also looking to change pot taxes

EAGLE — Colorado's governor joined those who support Eagle County's proposed pot tax increase, while one Eagle River Valley community is taking a different road to its marijuana tax.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday, Nov. 1, announced his support for Eagle County's Ballot Issue 1A. If passed, then the measure would earmark the first $1.2 million in new recreational marijuana excise and sales taxes for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

"I'm encouraged to see creative solutions develop as our counties look to tackle mental-health and substance-use issues," Hickenlooper said in a statement. "This measure helps meet critical health needs while helping Colorado become the healthiest state in the country."

Eagle's tax cut question

Eagle is the only Eagle River Valley town to allow marijuana sales. Eagle has charged a pot purchase fee, in addition to its regular sales tax, since it gave the green light to pot sales.

The way the county's marijuana tax question is written, the county would collect its tax in addition to the fee that Eagle collects for itself.

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That would mean pot buyers in Eagle would pay double taxes.

That, Eagle's town board said, would never do.

Eagle is floating a ballot initiative that would protect its local reefer retailer, while saving customers a couple of bucks in taxes.

Eagle is asking its citizens to approve a ballot measure that accomplishes two things:

1. It repeals the town's existing pot purchase fee, replacing it with a straight 2.5 percent sales tax on marijuana.

2. It keeps pot tax revenue in the town of Eagle, until the county taxes pot at a higher rate than Eagle. After that, the difference would go to the county's mental health fund.

Eagle pot purchasers would pay less

Right now, Eagle charges a $1 fee for every marijuana purchase up to $20. Above $20, it's $5 per transaction. Throw in the town's existing 4.5 percent sales tax, Colorado's 15 percent state tax and the county's existing 1.5 percent tax, and a $100 purchase costs you $126.

If Eagle voters approve the town's proposed change, then Eagle would charge a 2.5 percent tax on marijuana purchases, instead of the fees.

Under Eagle's proposed plan, your $100 purchase would cost you $123.50, saving you $2.50.

Because locals tend to spend less, $25 to $50 every week or so, they'll pay even less, said Dieneka Manzanares, with Sweet Leaf Pioneer, currently the town's only marijuana dispensary.

Manzanares said they're supporting Eagle's plan.

Eagle's proposal allows the town to increase its marijuana tax by 0.5 percent a year.

If the county's proposed tax increases to a rate higher than Eagle's, then the difference goes to the county's mental health funding, the focus of the campaign to support 1A, Eagle County's proposed marijuana tax.

"The ballot measure that the town has proposed took months to draft, working for the best interests of our constituents," Eagle Town Board member Matt Solomon said.

The Eagle River Valley's other towns — Avon, Vail, Gypsum, Minturn and Red Cliff — are all supporting 1A. However, they're not dealing with Eagle's conundrum because marijuana is not sold in those towns.

Outside of Eagle, all of the Eagle River Valley's marijuana retailers are in Edwards and Eagle-Vail, unincorporated Eagle County and under the county government's jurisdiction.

Roaring Fork remains neutral

In the Roaring Fork Valley, the ballot measure received a cool reception from Basalt's mayor and Town Council.

"Even though I plan to vote for this, I have a hard time having a big party and a rah-rah for it," Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said.

Whitsitt told the Aspen Times that the Eagle County section of the Roaring Fork Valley sometimes feels like a "stepchild" and doesn't always get its fair share from the county government.

Whitsitt said she believes the seated county commissioners would make sure the Roaring Fork Valley area will get its fair share, but she wasn't sure about the future. Basalt Town Council opted to remain neutral on 1A.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.