This question has me losing precious sleep. So voters were asked to approve more taxes for schools, roads, airport and health care. I’ve done minimal research, and I see that in 2015, some $996 million in recreational and medical Mary Jane was sold statewide, resulting in $135 million in taxes and fees. Even more is expected in 2016. Where in the world is all the tax money going? Shouldn’t we be reaping some rewards? If you already covered this topic, my apologies … I wasn’t stoned. – Pass on Grass
Action Line generally refrains from marijuana questions. Not because pot is particularly controversial.
It’s because Action Line finds pot culture to be agonizingly dull and embarrassingly vapid.
So now that 61.7 percent of La Plata County is offended (that’s the portion of voters who approved legalized weed in 2012), let’s delve into something even more boring – taxes and budgets.
Marijuana, whether recreational or medicinal, bears a heavy tax burden.
There’s a 2.9 percent state sales tax, a 10 percent special sales tax, a 15 percent excise tax plus the local stuff.
For the sake of easy comparison, we’ll just look at state taxes.
For the fiscal year 2015 (FYI, the state’s FY is June to June), Colorado actually took in $156 million in total marijuana taxes, licenses and fees.
That’s the straight dope from the Colorado Department of Revenues’ Office of Research and Analysis.
The department posts detailed monthly spreadsheets of cannabis analysis. Go to www.colorado.gov and search for “marijuana tax.”
By the way, that $156 million is up 53 percent from the previous fiscal year.
For the Average Joe, that’s huge. Or as our new president would say, “that’s yuge.”
But it’s not.
Colorado’s budget for the last fiscal year was $25 billion. Note the “B.” Of that amount, $10.3 billion was collected in taxes.
While $156 million in pot tax seems significant, it’s only 1.51 percent of all tax revenue collected by the state.
That’s not nearly enough to be “reaping some rewards.” Sure, it’s a nice line item in the state budget. But it’s not the windfall everyone thinks.
Suppose you got a 1.5 percent raise at work. That would be appreciated. But would you go out and buy a boat?
A few people would stupidly do so. But most folks would understand that this amount pretty much keeps up with inflation, so it’s a wash.
To see where all the pot money goes, the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting created a fascinating flow chart. Check it out at http://tinyurl.com/ColoMJtax.
Since everyone wants more government services but doesn’t want to pay for them, we need to look at some creative “revenue enhancements.”
A $5 surtax on anyone wearing fleece covered with dog hair would rake in several million locally.
A hefty Sanctimonious Tariff could be levied on anyone driving a Prius with preachy bumper stickers or likewise on anyone who doesn’t work in construction or ranching but drives a grossly large pickup.
We have Fines Doubled for Speeding. Why not Fines Double for Slowing, targeting clueless numbskulls driving far below posted speed limits?
A Combustion Special Assessment could be slapped on people who insist their wood-burning stove is a “green” way to heat or anyone who does controlled burn in spring despite a forecast of gusty winds.
And finally, we need a 35 percent Occupancy Tax for all those people who failed to follow through on their threat to move to Canada if the election didn’t go their way.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can ask for anonymity if you knew that pot now generates twice as much tax revenue as alcohol. Mike Smedley