Colorado Marijuana Laws Coming on the 2021 Ballot
Marijuana may be legal in Colorado, but there’s a slew of marijuana-related initiatives on the ballot this year.
Statewide, Colorado voters will decide whether to increase the sales tax on recreational marijuana to fund after-school and tutoring programs for low-income and underserved youth.
Proposition 119, also known as the State Learning and Academic Progress Initiative (Leap), would give families earning between $25,000 and $50,000 a yearly stipend of $1,500 for after-school programs. Supporters of the initiative say the money would help close income-related learning gaps, which have been particularly exacerbated during the coronavirus pandemic.
If the initiative is approved, it will raise marijuana taxes from 15 percent to 20 percent. Local governments add their own marijuana sales and industry taxes, so the tax on recreational marijuana would go from 26.4 percent to 31.4 percent in Denver.
The state’s largest teachers union, the Colorado Education Association, initially supported the initiative. However, they withdrew their support and adopted a neutral stance over oversight issues and a lack of information about how the program would be implemented. In particular, they noted that the program may not be as accessible for rural students and that it funnels money toward private, for-profit programs while doing nothing to fund public schools.
State marijuana proponents oppose the ballot measure, arguing that increasing an already hefty tax on recreational marijuana could push people to the black market, as well as detract from social equity initiatives.
In Denver, voters will decide whether to increase the recreational marijuana sales tax by 1.5 percent to fund pandemic research. Initiative 300 would raise around $7 million annually to fund the University of Colorado Denver CityCenter for research.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock opposes the initiative. On Facebook, he wrote, “While we continue to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19, adding a cost burden to just Denver voters seems unfair. Let’s rely on our national research institutions to do this work and share the responsibility more broadly than just Denver taxpayers.”
The initiative was sponsored by a Delaware-registered advocacy group, Guarding Against Pandemics. The University of Colorado was not involved in the initiative, and they don’t have any plan on how to use the funds.
Golden, Westminster, and Brighton
Three Colorado suburbs may finally have the chance to open recreational marijuana dispensaries thanks to initiatives on the ballot in Golden, Westminster, and Brighton.
After recreational cannabis was legalized in the state, the city council in Golden placed a moratorium on adult-use marijuana businesses in the city. If voters approve the measure, recreational dispensaries could open their doors. Marijuana cultivation, extraction, or manufacturing facilities would still be off the table.
Similarly, Westminster banned marijuana sales in 2013. However, ballot measures presented by the city council would all adult-use marijuana dispensaries and create a new local sales tax.
Brighton City Council banned marijuana sales after it was legalized in 2012, but this year voters in the city will vote on whether to allow recreational marijuana dispensaries as well as create a 4 percent local sales tax.
This year it’s all about taxes as Lakewood voters weigh in on a special marijuana sales tax that would help fund the city. If approved, local taxes on recreational marijuana would be set at 5 percent, with the City of Lakewood retaining the right to increase the tax up to 10 percent without further voter approval. Currently, Lakewood’s overall sales tax for recreational marijuana is 19.6 percent. The sales tax increase would raise around $2.9 million per year for Lakewood.
Mead, Lamar, and Wellington
Three rural Colorado towns will also vote this November on whether to allow recreational cannabis sales.
In Wellington, Initiative 2B would allow medical and recreational marijuana sales, and Issue 300 would implement a 3.5 sales tax on recreational marijuana purchases.
A voter-backed initiative in Mead could end the prohibition of marijuana sales in the town. A similar measure failed in 2019.
Lamar has two separate ballot initiatives that would end the ban on medical and recreational marijuana sales. Ballot Question 2B would allow marijuana dispensaries, cultivation, extraction, and manufacturing, while Ballot Issue 2A would create a 5 percent local tax on recreational marijuana sales. The city would have the right to raise adult-use marijuana taxes up to 15 percent without further voter approval.