A few months back, we posted about the setting of the September 16 marijuana tax holiday, which some ganjapreneurs see as potentially becoming the second 4/20 of 2015.
In the context of that piece, we also provided info about House Bill 15-1367, an effort by the State of Colorado to hang on to extra marijuana tax revenues, as opposed to refunding the cash to voters.
That bill has now spawned Proposition BB, the only statewide measure on this November’s ballot — and the campaign on behalf of the proposal is just launched on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
First, some background.
As we’ve reported, the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, the constitutional amendment better known as TABOR, requires, among other things, that taxes be refunded if the amount raised exceeds estimates — and that’s happened thanks to the estimated $58 million generated in the first fiscal year of recreational sales.
House Bill 15-1367, on view below, includes the state’s attempt to hang onto much of the dough. The measure calls for the creation of a ballot measure that, if approved, would allow the state to keep $52 million of the money.
The first two states to legalize recreational marijuana have collectively raked in at least $200 million in marijuana tax revenue, according to the latest tax data — and they’re putting those dollars to good use.
In Colorado, after about a year and a half of legal recreational marijuana sales, the state has collected more than $117 million in excise taxes from both the recreational and medical marijuana markets, according to the most recent data from the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Washington state got a slower start. Its retail shops didn’t begin selling recreational marijuana until July of last year, but they are keeping pace with Colorado’s. About $83 million in excise taxes have already been collected in the year since sales first began, according to the most recent tax data from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.
DENVER — Talk about higher learning. A Colorado county may create the world’s first public college scholarship program funded with marijuana money.
Pueblo County is considering a 5 percent excise tax on marijuana growers, with half the proceeds designated to a scholarship fund that boosters say would be the first of its kind.
The southern Colorado county has more square footage of recreational marijuana growing than any other county in the state. Pueblo allows growing outside and in greenhouses, which is banned many other places.
The sponsor of the tax measure says it could produce a couple million a year. The proceeds would be divided among Pueblo County high school graduates who stay in the county for college. Currently that’s about 400 students.
Colorado’s monthly recreational cannabis sales topped $50 million for the first time, according to new data from the Colorado Department of Revenue.
The retail pot sales figures for June 2015 also saw their largest-ever month-over-month increase, adding credibility to 2014 trends that hinted at marijuana sales spiking in Colorado tourism’s high seasons of summer and winter.
Colorado state Sen. Pat Steadman, a Democrat representing District 31, said that spikes in recreational cannabis sales correlating with tourism hotspots “wouldn’t surprise me.”
“It might be too early to say for sure that there’s these patterns, but you can explain some of them if you think about the winter sport tourism or summer tourism or other things happening — vacations, wedding parties, graduations,” said Steadman. “It’s a lifestyle thing.”
Recreational pot sales jumped more than $7.6 million from May to June, totaling $50.1 million, according to the data. Medical marijuana sales also saw a significant uptick in June, up more than $2.8 million from the previous month for an annual high of $35.2 million.
Wineries and breweries should brace themselves for some unusual competition. Colorado, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012, will get its first “weedery” in early 2016.
The $35 million project, Green Man Cannabis Ranch and Amphitheater, the brainchild of Christian Hageseth, is set to open in Denver. Its greenhouses represent a major shift because producers have largely cultivated marijuana indoors; there will also be a performance space, a restaurant, a rooftop bar, a gift shop and, of course, a marijuana dispensary.
Mr. Hageseth, who founded the Green Man Cannabis marijuana company and chronicled his adventures in the medical and legal marijuana business in the book “Big Weed,” says he enjoys his own product but shatters stereotypes. He’s an ambitious entrepreneur with a background in real estate, who sat down for an interview while visiting New York to meet with investment bankers.
Following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Hageseth.
Even as support for ending marijuana prohibition is building around the country, Congress and the Obama administration remain far too timid about the need for change.Last year, residents in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted to join Colorado and Washington State in making recreational use of marijuana legal. Later this year, residents of Ohio are expected to vote on a ballot measure that would legalize it. Nevadans will vote on a legalization proposal next year. And Californians could vote on several similar measures next year.Instead of standing by as change sweeps the country, federal lawmakers should be more actively debating and changing the nation’s absurd marijuana policies, policies that have ruined millions of lives and wasted billions of dollars. Their inaction is putting businesses and individuals in states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana in dubious legal territory — doing something that is legal in their state but is considered a federal crime. Many growers, retailers and dispensaries also have to operate using only cash because many banks will not serve them, citing the federal prohibition. Recently, the Federal Reserve denied a master account to a credit union in Colorado seeking to provide financial services to marijuana businesses.Lawmakers who hope their colleagues in Congress will act face an uphill struggle. For example, a bill introduced in the Senate by Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrats of New Jersey and New York, respectively, and Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, would allow states to legalize marijuana for medical use. It would also allow banks and credit unions to provide financial services to cannabis-based businesses in states that have legalized the drug. The bill has 16 sponsors, including two Republicans, but the Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, has not scheduled it for a hearing or a vote. An identical bill in the House with 17 sponsors, eight of them Republican, is also languishing in committee.
AVONDALE — Denver-based Two Rivers Water & Farming Co. typically can reel in $4,000 to $5,000 for every acre of corn, cabbage and pumpkins it plants. But Two Rivers is aiming for far higher cash yields by leasing land to cannabis growers.
Publicly traded Two Rivers, which last year logged $2.4 million in revenue by converting acreage to high-yield fruits and vegetables from feed crops, has spun off a subsidiary, GrowCo Inc., that is building huge greenhouses to lease to licensed recreational marijuana growers at about $1 million an acre.
GrowCo’s first greenhouse is underway in rural Pueblo County, a new haven for cannabis- and hemp-grow operations. And by this month or September, what is now a colossal stretch of pitched metal could be among the largest areas in the region used to grow pot.
“The cannabis market is just too big to ignore,” said GrowCo chief financial officer Wayne Harding.
Two Rivers is betting big on growing marijuana, but it’s not going all in. The company maintains a slew of water rights in the Arkansas River Basin and holds more than 1,300 acres of land.
DENVER – A Colorado credit union is hoping a federal judge will intervene to let the booming marijuana industry move its finances from cash-stuffed suitcases to the regulated banking system.A pair of lawsuits filed in Denver this week challenge recent decisions by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the National Credit Union Administration to deny applications from Fourth Corner Credit Union.The credit union was set up last year to serve Colorado’s marijuana industry, but it needed permission from federal insurers and regulators before opening for business.
The Colorado Board of Health voted 6-2 — amid shouts, hisses and boos from a packed house — not to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the medical conditions that can be treated under the state’s medical marijuana program.
The board voted Wednesday against the recommendation of the state’s chief medical officer.
A dozen of the veterans who testified said cannabis has saved their lives. Many said drugs legally prescribed to them for PTSD at veterans clinics or by other doctors — antidepressants, antipsychotics, opioids and others — nearly killed them or robbed them of quality of life.
“It is our brothers and sisters who are committing suicide every day. We know cannabis can help. We’re not going to go away,” said John Evans, director of Veterans 4 Freedoms.
“We’ve legalized it,” Evans said. “We’ll take the tax dollars from our tourists (for recreational marijuana) before we’ll help our vets.”
The president of the nine-member board, Tony Cappello, an epidemiologist, said he could not vote to approve pot’s use for PTSD because scientific evidence does not support it. Most board members agreed that mountains of anecdotal evidence aren’t enough. One board member was absent.
“I’m struggling with the science piece,” board member Dr. Christopher Stanley said.
The American and Colorado psychiatric associations do not support it, said board member Dr. Ray Estacio, an internist at Denver Health and associate professor in medicine at the University of Colorado Denver.
But board member Joan Sowinski, an environmental and occupational health consultant, said the testimony from veterans and other PTSD sufferers was so persuasive — as was recent research about symptoms reduction — that she could support it. Jill Hunsaker-Ryan, an Eagle County commissioner, was the only other yes vote.
“Blood is on your hands,” one audience member shouted after the board voted not to make Colorado the 10th state to allow medicinal marijuana use for PTSD.
The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Larry Wolk, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, recommended the state add the condition. He suggested a provision that would cause the issue to be re-examined in four years, after two state-funded studies produced results.
Should marijuana businesses pay tax on gross profits or net profits? It sounds like a silly question. Virtually every business in every country pays tax only on net profits, after expenses. But the topsy-turvy rules for marijuana seem to defy logic. And taxes are clearly a big topic these days under both federal and burgeoning state law.
Many observers and legislators suggested that legalizing marijuana would mean huge tax revenues. With legalized medical marijuana now giving way to more and more states legalizing recreational use, the cash hauls look ever more alluring. Washington state regulators say the state collected $65 million in first-year taxes from recreational marijuana sales in just 12 months on cannabis sales of over $260 million from June 2014 to June 2015. In Colorado, the governor’s office estimated that it would collect $100 million in taxes from the first year of recreational marijuana.