Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

30 Jul 2017

Ten reasons to resist a new excise tax or special sales tax on marijuana in Durango

Posted by Adam Howell


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Durango’s City Manager Ron LeBlanc is pushing the City Council to put a proposal for new marijuana taxes on a ballot referendum.

IMG_0021Here’s ten reasons to resist this proposal before Durango City Council votes on it this Tuesday at 6:30.

  1. Single industries should not arbitrarily be singled out to pay a greater share of taxes for purposes that are unrelated to the industry’s operations. It’s arbitrarily punitive.
  2. The City of Durango is already triple-dipping from the marijuana tax cookie jar. 1. They’ve got a 3 % City Sales Tax. 2. They’ve got a 15% kick back from the 15 % State Sales Tax. 3. They’ve got licensing fees in the amount of tens of thousands of dollars.
  3. The amount of State Sales Tax that people are currently paying on recreational marijuana in Durango was under reported by the City Manager at the June 27, 2017 study session. Until an industry representative corrected him, City Manager Ron LeBlanc reported to the City Council that the industry is only paying 10%. As people working in the industry know, this changed on July 1, 2017. Retailers pay 15% state sales tax, not 10%. Additionally, the City Manager’s office has under reported it’s 2016 income from the 15% retail marijuana tax that the City gets 15% of. (The State gets the other 85%) The City reported that they received $300,000 dollars in 2016, but State tax reporting documents say that the City was paid $343,090 dollars. It’s no coincidence that these tax figures were under reported at both the City Council study session as well as in the agenda documentation for the August 1, 2017 meeting.

    This is a screenshot of the part of Durango's City Manager's Agenda Documentation that incorrectly reports the City's tax income from the the special sales tax on marijuana for 2016. It should read $343,090 dollars.

    This is a screenshot of the part of Durango’s City Manager’s Agenda Documentation that incorrectly reports the City’s tax income from the the special sales tax on marijuana for 2016. It should read $343,090 dollars.

  4. Licensed marijuana retailers already pay a disproportionate share of taxes in general. For example: 15% State Special Sales Tax, 3% City Sales Tax, 2% County Sales Tax, Federal Income Tax for these retailers is 60 to 70%.
  5. The City of Durango provides minimal support for existing marijuana businesses, other than letting them exist after getting proper licensing and allowing them to have access to law enforcement services.We’ve caught the city playing in the cookie jar. Caught with their hands in the cookie jar. When are City Officials going to stop putting their hands in the figurative community cookie jar without showing some gratitude? When is the City going to start showing some appreciation for what the industry has done for this town? Be grateful for the safe access that they provide people to an alternative medicine, alternative therapy. The Durango Area Tourism Office provides no support for any business in the marijuana industry, citing federal law. It’s time for the City to start working with federal officials to make the industry safer through increased access to banking services, as well as reforming the archaic, illogical Controlled Substances Act. Please be grateful for what the marijuana industry has put in the communal cookie jar.
  6. The marijuana industry provides hundreds of jobs in the City of Durango.
  7. Marijuana retailers are providing safer access to a safer product that can be used to kill pain, help people sleep, reduce anxiety, and take the edge off. This is a better alternative than the opiates that are frequently prescribed by doctors in Durango for pain management. Marijuana is safer than opiates, and now adults have safe access to this alternative medicine without needing a doctor’s prescription.
  8. Exponentially taxing marijuana goes against the principle of regulating marijuana like alcohol, which the voters approved of in concept back in 2012. The liquor industry pays way less taxes, but has bigger impacts on people’s health.
  9. City officials want to fund the construction of a new police station with increased tax revenues as defined in the 2015 Facilities Master Plan report, which was mentioned as an infrastructure need in Agenda Documentation for the August 1, 2017 City Council meeting.      The conceptual plan mentions a new 48,000 square foot, $19,262,000, multi-level police station to be built between 2017 and 2019.
    Funding a police station with marijuana taxes would be a slap in the face to anyone who’s ever been detrimentally effected by the previous war against non-violent drug offenders.
    Contrarily, the City’s general fund tax revenues should be used to pay for helping victims of marijuana arrests to get get their marijuana possession convictions expunged from their criminal records. Anyone who’s got an arrest for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana dating back before 2012 should be allowed to have their criminal record expunged for free, at the expense of the City’s general fund. Arresting marijuana offenders was far more harmful to the offenders than any effects from using the drug itself.
  10. As of 2016, Colorado already had the second-highest tax rate for recreational retail marijuana, according to a 2016 Tax Foundation study.

Resist this proposal for a new tax on marijuana that’s sold in Durango by writing to City Council at citycouncil@durangogov.org



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