Colorado Can't Tax Pot Sales Without Voter Approval

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On November 6th, Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment (Amendment 64) legalizing recreational marijuana.  Over 54 percent of voters were in favor of the constitutional amendment, but it would be interesting to know how many of those people are “non-smokers.”  I would guess that a majority of those who voted in favor of legalization were more interested in the “fringe benefits” than they were in getting high with their friends.  For example, now the state’s law enforcement personnel will be able to spend more time on violent crimes rather than small-time drug possession.  Also, now the state will be able to collect an estimated $40 million per year from a 15% tax on marijuana sales.  Or will it?

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights in Colorado prohibits any kind of new tax burden without voter approval.  According to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, the tax must first be approved by the state legislature and then the voting public.  Perhaps the best way to avoid this tax problem would have been to include precise tax language directly in the pot legalization bill, but for whatever reason, that didn’t happen.

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