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  Volume No. 10 Issue No. 5 May 2014  

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Feature Stories
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  County’s taxes from pot going to pot
  By Jason Gray

   El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs’ hopes for an earmark of marijuana sales taxes from the state were thwarted in April, as the Colorado Joint Budget Committee passed a plan to spend a portion of the sales tax on statewide marijuana youth education programs, saving the remainder for future budgeting purposes.
   El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen told The New Falcon Herald in December the county was going to ask the state to consider distributing tax revenue based on impacts, not just on whether the community opted in for recreational sales. The Legislature committee's plan instead focuses on statewide drug education programs and providing funds to add more nurses in public schools.
   Gov. John Hickenlooper's budget proposal released in February predicts recreational marijuana will bring in $98 million to state coffers through sales taxes – $28 million more than the $70 million estimated in the Proposition AA text passed in November. The excise tax portion of the revenue is already earmarked for school building capital projects through the Building Excellent Schools Today program, in accordance with the 2012 Amendment 64 initiative, which passed statewide.
   The committee's plan also mandates that marijuana taxes only be spent the year after it is collected, rather than budgeted forward like other tax revenues. BEST grant funds will be distributed by the Colorado Department of Education through its existing grant cycle. (See Lindsey Harrison’s article on grants – “D 49 needs grants to fill the gaps” – in the D 49 News section.)

   All eyes on pot activities in Colorado and Washington
   Cannabis legalization activists and opponents nationwide are closely watching Colorado and Washington for the political fallout of recreational marijuana.
   With a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana already scheduled for November, Alaska could be the first state to join Colorado and Washington. It is currently the only state with a scheduled vote. Washington, D.C. is in the midst of an active campaign to generate signatures to put decriminalization on their ballot in 2014.
   In several other states, including Oregon, Nevada, Montana, Maine, California and Arizona, citizen organizations are working to get full legalization initiatives on their ballots in 2015 or 2016.
   New Jersey appears an unlikely candidate, after Gov. Chris Christie criticized what he sees as Colorado's poor quality of life since cannabis legalization. “To me, it's just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey, and there's no tax revenue that's worth that,” said Christie in an April radio address.


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