First $1.2 million of Eagle County’s proposed pot tax would fund mental health programs | SummitDaily.com
Randy Wyrick / Vail Daily

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First $1.2 million of Eagle County’s proposed pot tax would fund mental health programs

These are the Colorado counties that already have sales and excise taxes on marijuana.

EDWARDS — More than half of the revenue from a proposed county-imposed marijuana tax would fund mental health programs, the interim county manager said Monday.

Bryan Treu, the county’s interim manager, estimated a countywide pot tax would generate $2 million per year. Of that, $1.2 million would fund mental health facilities and programs, Treu said. The tax question will probably be put before voters in the Nov. 7 election, Treu said.

A recent county-commissioned poll found that up to 78 percent of the 400 likely voters questioned said they would support a tax.

County staffers have hosted two meetings with local marijuana dispensers and growers.

Peter Tramm with Root Rx is among the local retailer who supports the tax.

“I’m going to be taxed, and at an egregious level. If that’s the case, let’s spend the money on something we can be proud of, and we can be proud of this,” Tramm said.

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The county commissioners have until Sept. 8 to put a tax question on the November ballot.

Across Colorado, 13 counties and 67 municipalities have levied their own pot taxes.

ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

Right now, Eagle County receives around $250,000 a year from retail marijuana sales taxes, Treu said.

The proposed tax increase would be phased in, Treu said, beginning at 2.5 percent a year and capping at 5 percent.

2.5 percent would generate an additional $350,000 annually.

5 percent would generate an additional $750,000 annually.

Retailers would pay that.

The rest of the money would come from a 5 percent excise taxes on growers. That would be piled onto the existing state taxes they already pay.

Some growers in the meetings took the proposed excise tax in stride. Rob Trotter was not one of them.

“If you took 32 percent of Apple’s revenues off the top, it would put them out of business. The mob doesn’t take that much,” Trotter said.

Trotter said he has been a grower for three years, and has not turned a dime in profit, blaming stifling tax rates and regulations, and a glut in the market created by state bureaucrats issuing too many cultivation licenses.

Marijuana is the only agricultural commodity dealing with this level of regulation and tax rate, Trotter said.

“Any other crop doesn’t have this noose around its neck,” Trotter said.

Scot Hunn owns the local consulting firm Hunn Planning and Policy. Eagle County has four licensed outdoor growers and three smaller indoor cultivators on Eagle-Vail’s “Green Mile”. The math around the excise tax is based on the number of plants those cultivators grow and harvest.

COLORADO’S CASH CROP

Right now, Eagle County’s share of state marijuana tax revenue comes from the state’s 10 percent sales tax and 15 percent excise tax.

Colorado’s Department of Revenue says a pound of marijuana is worth up to $1,500.

That means the state collects 15 percent of that $1,500, or $225 per pound in excise taxes.

If a glutted market drives down prices and forces growers to sell their crop for less than that, they’re still taxed at that $1,500 level.

Colorado’s statewide excise tax generated nearly $200 million in statewide marijuana tax revenue in 2016, stemming from $1.3 billion in marijuana sales, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.