Colorado Voters Reject Marijuana Tax Increases

Colorado Voters Reject Marijuana Tax Increases

Colorado voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure that would have increased the state’s tax on marijuana to support after-school education programs. A separate local proposal in Denver to boost cannabis sales taxes to fund pandemic research also was defeated.

The state was among the first to enact adult-use legalization, and it has consistently shown that cannabis tax revenue is already supporting schools and other programs. Some education and health advocates saw additional funding opportunities, but voters disagreed by a margin of 51 to 49%.

Under the statewide proposal voters rejected — the Colorado Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress (LEAP) program — low- and middle-income families would have been eligible to receive a $1,500 stipend to have school-aged children participate in after-school programs, tutoring and summer learning activities.

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The state excise tax on sales of adult-use cannabis products would have been gradually increased from 15 to 20% to fund the effort. A fiscal analysis indicated Colorado would have collected an additional $138 million per year to fund the measure once the final tax rate was set.

Supporters said this policy was needed as a response to the Coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated income-related learning gaps for students. But marijuana industry stakeholders and the state’s largest teachers union expressed concerns it would detract from social-equity efforts and make marijuana more expensive for people who need it for medical use.

“We are encouraged to see Coloradans vote down a regressive tax on people’s pain, especially veterans, teachers and the elderly who need cannabis for medicine but can’t get a medical card,” Chuck Smith, CEO of BellRock Brands and board president of Colorado Leads, said in a news release.

“However, our more than 30,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of customers have made a statement: stop unfairly taxing our industry,” he added. “We are hopeful the business community will oppose any future efforts to increase taxes on the cannabis industry just as they would for any other industry in the state.”

The measure had bipartisan support, including current Democratic Gov. Jared Polis and former Republican Gov. Bill Owens. The Colorado Education Association withdrew its support in June over concerns about how the proposal would be implemented.

The separate local Denver proposal would have raised the local cannabis tax rate by 1.5% to fund research related to the pandemic. It lost 60 to 40%.

This piece is part of a content-sharing arrangement between The News Station and Marijuana Moment.

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