DENVER – A statewide ballot question asking Colorado voters to allow the state to retain marijuana tax revenues passed easily Tuesday night.
As of 8:30 p.m., Proposition BB had 66 percent of the vote statewide, and 71.9 percent in La Plata County, enough to call the election early.
Over at a bar at the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Denver, where proponents watched early results, there was initial confusion, as the Secretary of State’s office accidentally reversed the numbers. The office quickly corrected the error.
State Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who led efforts to place the issue before voters, said Coloradans are responding consistently given prior votes on the marijuana tax issue.
“People passed Amendment 64, they said legalize it, regulate it and tax it,” Steadman said. “They passed the taxes overwhelmingly, and tonight they said, ‘Yes, we meant it.’”
Proposition BB allows the state to keep $66.1 million in revenue stemming from marijuana taxes collected in Fiscal Year 2014-15.
The vote marked the third time Colorado voters weighed in on marijuana taxes. Voters first approved taxing marijuana in 2012 when they legalized cannabis with Amendment 64. The following year, voters were asked to authorize excise and sales taxes on retail marijuana through Proposition AA.
Voters in 2013 received an estimate on revenue from taxes. But overall state revenue ended up higher than forecasted in the voter guide, forcing the state to plan for taxpayer refunds.
The Legislature this year decided marijuana taxes were too important to lose, so it referred Proposition BB to voters. Voters on Tuesday obliged the request with little fanfare, turning down average refunds of about $8.
The first $40 million of marijuana revenue will go to school construction, as was the original intent of Amendment 64. Another $12 million will be spent on youth programs and marijuana education. The remainder will be allocated by the Legislature.
Neither side of the debate mounted much of a campaign or raised any significant money, instead relying heavily on word of mouth and social media.
Had the measure failed, $25 million would have been refunded to Colorado taxpayers, $24 million to retail marijuana cultivators and $17.1 million to retail marijuana consumers through a temporary reduction in the 10 percent retail marijuana sales tax rate.
Local governments would have lost about $6.3 million from the state beginning in 2016, which proponents argued would have likely impacted regulation and enforcement efforts.
Opponents, however, say taxpayers are better off with the money, pointing out that voters were asked to approve the question without having any control over the programs set to be funded.
“The government gets more money and families get less money. Business as usual, I guess,” said Rob Corry, a well-known Denver marijuana attorney and lead opponent, after the initiative passed. “They were able to demonize (marijuana) effectively and say they’re taking money from the stoners’ hands.”