Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ballot initiatives: 2013 edition, Colorado Proposition AA

I'm going to try to work through all of the ballot initiatives that will appear on the ballots on November 5, 2013.  I'm getting a late start on it but hopefully, I cover almost all of them.  The goal is to explain what, exactly, the ballot initiative would accomplish.  A number of these are confusing and are written intentionally to confuse people.  I am going to lay out what it would mean to vote for each ballot initiative that I go through.

Proposition AA, Taxes on the Sale of Marijuana:

  • 15% excise tax on all recreational marijuana sales in the state, this money would then be used to fund schools
  • 10% sales tax on recreational marijuana sales, in addition to the 2.9% sales and local tax that apply.  Revenue created by the passage of Proposition AA would fund a state bureaucracy designed to regulate and monitor the marijuana retail business
The argument:

When Colorado passed Amendment 64, the argument was that Colorado would begin to create a framework to regulate marijuana retail sales.  People, who are over 21, are allowed to purchase marijuana in a retail environment.  The marijuana, that is sold currently in this environment, are taxed with the state sales tax of 2.9% and 3.5% in local taxes.  According to the 2013 Blue Book projection, 2014 will see $396.4 million in sales for marijuana.  With that projection, the state will raise $25 million to be used to fund state and local regulatory enforcement.  The Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division's budget in 2012 was $5.2 million.  Colorado's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) argues that, the enforcement division could more than double without having any additional taxes.

NORML does, however, support the excise tax on recreational marijuana, which would then fund the construction of public schools.  Colorado public schools face an estimated $17.8 billion in construction costs through 2018.  The excise tax will raise a majority of this money and allow for the construction and upkeep of these schools.  

The problem with the proposition in NORML's eyes is the 10% sales tax.  The argument for the tax is that it allows for the adequate funding of the enforcement division.  Concerns that the enforcement division are not adequately funded, are the driving forces of this debate.  Additionally, the funding may be used to study the effects of marijuana use in children and the safety application of marijuana.  One of the leading voices for the passage of the proposition opined that the people who are using the convenience of buying marijuana in a regulated fashion are being responsible by ensuring that it runs smoothly.  Meanwhile, NORML believes that the sales tax is an overtaxing of the people who use this service, believing that the general sales tax and local taxes are more than adequate for paying for this convenience.

Most people in Colorado do not have a problem with the proposition if polling is to be believed, Public Policy Polling has found that 77% of those surveyed believe that the proposition should be passed as opposed to just 18% who oppose the proposition.  Many people believe that marijuana should be taxed similar to other "sin taxes", such as alcohol or cigarettes, so it's easy to see why people support it.  

My stance: I do believe that the sales tax is a tad excessive for its stated goals, but, the excise tax is part of the ballot initiative that cannot be ignored.  The excise tax is part of the requirement of the passage of Amendment 64 and if I were to be a Colorado voter, I would likely vote for the passage of this proposition with some hesitation.  This is one of the harder decisions to make, I believe. 

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