DENVER — The Colorado legislature passed and sent to the governor yesterday a bill to establish what would be the first tax ever collected on commercial sales of marijuana purchased for recreational use in the United States.
The measure, which would impose a 15 per cent excise tax plus a 10 per cent statewide sales tax on retail pot purchases, was approved as part of a package of measures to implement Colorado’s landmark marijuana legalisation law enacted by voters last November.
Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper was expected to sign the legislation.
Supporters of the measures hailed the work of lawmakers in crafting legislation to carry out the will of the voters.
“The passage of these bills marks a major milestone toward the creation of the world’s first legal, regulated, and taxed marijuana market for adults,” said Christian Sederberg, author of the ballot question that voters approved.
The proposed taxes, seen as necessary to support the larger regulatory framework of the system, are still subject to a ballot referendum under a Colorado law requiring all new taxes be approved directly by voters.
A survey commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, and conducted last month by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, found that 77 per cent of the 900 registered Colorado voters polled favoured the proposed taxes.
In November, voters passed a constitutional amendment making Colorado one of just two states – the other was Washington – legalising possession, cultivation and use of marijuana by adults for recreational purposes for the first time.
In Colorado, 53 per cent of the voters supported legalisation of pot, versus 47 per cent who opposed it.
The outcomes in Colorado and Washington, already among nearly 20 states with laws on the books legalising marijuana for medical use, put both states in further conflict with the federal government, which classifies cannabis as an illegal narcotic.
Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Denver, said in a statement following the legislative action that federal authorities were monitoring the pot legalisation movement.
“The Department of Justice is taking into consideration all aspects of this issue in both Colorado and Washington as part of its decision-making process regarding what response the federal government should have to the legalization initiatives in the two states,” he said. (Reuters)