Wheeler: Vote ‘no’ on ballot to fund mental health care with marijuana taxes (column) | VailDaily.com

Wheeler: Vote ‘no’ on ballot to fund mental health care with marijuana taxes (column)

Michael Wheeler
Valley Voices

Editor's note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.

"One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions, rather than their results." — Milton Friedman

Our country has always been plagued by bad solutions to noble causes. It seems that this phenomena has accelerated over the past decade.

Let's consider the upcoming Eagle County ballot. Ballot Issue 1A is front and center with proposals to further increase the taxes on retail marijuana. Any argument against it would imply that the person making such argument is somehow against mental-health treatment. That is ludicrous. This is an issue of increasing already exorbitant taxes and government overreach with no plausible, logical argument as to why marijuana should be penalized.

During the period of Prohibition (1920s to 1930s), government took the right away from the people to something that essentially grows in the ground. Over the past decade or so, certain states have moved to decriminalize marijuana. They only did so, however, in exchange for huge taxes on the people.

Currently, Colorado has the second-highest taxes on marijuana in the country. Taxes were increased again on July 1 of this year. There is a 15 percent (wholesale) excise tax and a 15 percent retail tax. Certain municipalities then charge additional sales tax or transaction fees on top of that. In Eagle, for example, the town charges $5, which on a typical $50 or less transaction adds another tax of 10 percent or more.

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Now you have in front of you a ballot to impose new retail and wholesale excise taxes of 5 percent each in Eagle County, plus new retail and excise taxes in the town of Eagle of 2.5 percent each (replacing the transaction tax). Add it all up, and with the new tax proposals, taxes on marijuana will approach 50 percent. We're talking almost half going to government in a country founded through a revolution against tyranny and taxation.

What is the logic behind taxing marijuana to fund mental health? Some would argue that marijuana is a viable and effective solution to many health issues. Given the opioid epidemic in this country, marijuana is a welcome alternative to prescription painkillers. The side effects to prescription drugs prescribed for depression, anxiety, stress and other mental-health disorders could be considered far worse than marijuana. Only government could figure out a way to make a viable solution more expensive.

I'm not an advocate for marijuana commerce or consumption. I'm not in that business. The overarching issue here is taxation and misguided government. If you look at the ballot mailed to you, then it's taxes on top of taxes on top of taxes.

The ballot includes increases in taxes for the local community college to be paid by people who do not attend the community college. Certain towns in the Vail Valley now have taxes on shopping bags. These taxes (in addition to being ridiculous) are regressive, meaning they impact the poorest in the community the most. What happened to taking personal responsibility for our environment?

The Californication of Colorado has been well documented, and the danger signs in the Vail Valley are obvious. Housing and living costs are expensive and growing. People are selling their homes and moving out of the valley. Seasonal workers are not returning due to lack of affordable housing. Up-front government fees and lengthy and restrictive approval processes make it impossible to build affordable housing. In a sheer stroke of lunacy, Eagle County actually proposed last year raising taxes in the name of affordable housing.

Every ballot is now filled with tax increases. That's not effective governing. Just say "no" to more taxes.

Mihael Wheeler is an Eagle resident.