Colorado Approves Letting State Keep Pot Taxes

DENVER (AP) – Colorado voters agreed Tuesday to allow the state to keep $66 million worth of marijuana taxes despite an accounting error that could have forced the state to refund the money to taxpayers and pot growers.

An accounting error in a pot tax measure approved two years ago led to the proposition. An inaccurate tax projection required the state to ask voters again if it could keep the revenue collected last year from a 10 percent sales tax and 15 percent excise tax on recreational pot.

The vote means the state won’t have to refund the $66 million and the 10 percent sales tax won’t be cut almost entirely for a time. Instead, the state will put the money toward school construction and educational and anti-drug efforts.

Proposition BB had broad support from Democrats, Republicans, the marijuana industry and nearly every newspaper in the state. There was no organized opposition.

“I think there are enough issues with marijuana that we need some of that money to deal with them,” Denver voter John Liptak said Tuesday.

Lawmakers insisted that the marijuana money would be spent as voters generally intended when they approved the taxes in 2013. For example, the measure sends $40 million to a school construction fund.

But it also gives money to some new recipients, including the 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America. In the case of the youth clubs, the money is actually going to the Colorado State Fair, which expects to receive $300,000 for renovations.

The Colorado Department of Education will get $2 million for a new “school bullying prevention and education cash fund.”

An additional $200,000 goes to the Department of Law to train police. Roadside marijuana impairment could be the training topic, but the measure does not require the money to spend on anything pot-related.

An even bigger chunk, $8 million, doesn’t have any designated recipient. That’s because more taxes were collected than lawmakers expected when the ballot measure was written.

The measure’s main author, Democratic state Sen. Pat Steadman, said the $8 million will go to the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, which can be used for numerous educational and anti-drug efforts.

Proposition BB was the fourth time Colorado has approved either legalizing marijuana or taxing it. Colorado approved medical marijuana in 2000. It voted to legalize the drug for all adults in 2012. And it has not voted twice now in favor of taxing the drug, both by overwhelming margins.

Colorado sold about $700 million worth of marijuana in 2014, the first year with retail pot shops. That number is expected to climb significantly in 2015 as more shops have opened. The state crossed the $100 million-a-month mark in August.

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