In an initial vote Tuesday, Breckenridge town council members unanimously approved a measure to put a 5 percent medical marijuana excise tax on the ballot in November.
The tax, if implemented, would bring in close to $58,000 a year in addition to the approximately $25,000 the town already collects in sales tax on the approximately $1 million collective annual sales at Breckenridge's seven medical marijuana dispensaries.
The additional funds would be used largely to offset the cost of the administration of the sale of medical marijuana for the town, particularly attorney's fees, but council members also discussed potentially using some of the money to subsidize detoxification programs prior to the vote Tuesday.
"It really has impacted what our staff has been doing, especially our town attorney," Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim DiLallo said. "We felt like it was time for us to be able to recoup some of those costs."
Council members previously expressed concerns about levying a tax, similar to those on alcohol and tobacco, on a substance that is supposed to act as medicine as well as the possible consequences of taxing, and thereby appearing to legitimize, the sale of a drug still illegal under federal law.
Town attorney Tim Berry said Tuesday he believed the risk of federal prosecution based on an excise tax to be very small.
The council will have to approve the ordinance on second reading after a public hearing for the marijuana tax question to appear on the ballot in November.
Fruita, Colo., a Western Slope city of approximately 11,000, approved a similar 5 percent excise tax on the sale of marijuana for medical purposes last year. Oakland Cali., and Los Angeles have also approved similar tax levies, according to Breckenridge documents.
Voters legalized marijuana for medical use in Colorado in 2000, and the Town of Breckenridge decriminalized the herb in 2008.