Senate Bill 3-309: The Issue of Marijuana Tax

By: Joseph Garrett

The subject of the sale of legalized marijuana is a popular this year in Colorado Youth in Government. Three bills have been proposed about different aspects of legalization, but two are about its taxation, and where the money received from it should go towards. From what I have seen the opinions are fairly split. Some people think that the money should go towards scholarships for minorities in order to help close the gap between rich and poor, and some people agree that this money should go towards the Colorado State Public Defender’s office in an effort to combat an issue created through legalization.

The first bill proposed that dealt with the taxation of recreational marijuana was titled “An Act To: Reallocate Colorado Tax Funds Generated By Cannabis Products”, and was authored by the member of the house of representatives from Pueblo West High School Kel Perry. This bill suggested allocating money from the taxation of marijuana to the Colorado State Public Defender’s office.

In an interview he stated “many of the people are not able to pay for their own lawyers so any defense work that would result from marijuana is heaped on the Public Defender’s office, and the Public Defender’s office has not been given the proper funds to handle this new work load.”

Specifically, this bill would allocate 25% of the money gained from the taxation of recreational marijuana to the Colorado State Public Defender’s office in order to give them to proper funds to handle the new rise in crime that Representative Perry believes is directly caused by the legalization of marijuana. Senator Guillermo Rivera from Gateway High School was in support of this bill and he stated that he has been in support of marijuana since it was legalized because he thinks “It really helps the economy by bringing in more money”, but he also agrees that “if there is a bad side of it, like the author said, the crime rate increase, then it would be a really good idea to spend some of the money we gain from it on the problem it creates, then we can still generate money and try to combat the problem.”

The arguments against this bill were given by Senator Melina Harris from the Hinkley delegation in an interview with her. Her main argument against this bill was that the money going towards the Colorado State Public Defender’s office should not come from the taxation of recreational marijuana. In an interview she stated, “Its a noble cause, but the money should come from somewhere else, because we can’t take twenty five percent of the funding away from school buildings, and fixing roads”. Senator Harris loved the idea of the bill, but she stated that simply the money should come from a different source, because, according to the Colorado Department of revenue, from 2016-2017 “the first $40M of the Retail Marijuana Excise Tax revenue was distributed to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund administered by the Colorado Department of Education’s Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program. Excise tax collections in excess of $40M, $31.6M for FY 2016-17, were transferred to the Public School Fund”.

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Delegates voting in committee. Photo by: Jacob Bolen

Taking money away from the programs and companies that benefit from the taxation of recreational marijuana could be detrimental to the school system of Colorado, but this recent legalization of recreational marijuana has, according to Representative Perry, caused an increase in Colorado’s crime rate, and if that is the case, it is only fair that the cause of the problem should help with the solution.

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