Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Marijuana

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colorado

Colorado has long rejected tax holidays on things like school supplies, clothing, and energy efficient appliances, but on September 16th, the state will be giving a tax break on the sale of marijuana.

A loophole in the tax laws are requiring the state to issue the holiday which will waive the 10% sales tax collected by retailers and the 15% excise tax on grower to retailer transactions. Officials save said that it may cost up to $4 million to lose tax revenue for a day. Retailers are expecting enormous crowds and are already preparing for the influx of potheads banging down their doors.

The state decriminalized use and possession of cannabis in 2012 and made provisions for retail sales in 2013. A year of sales has brought the amount of collected tax into question. Senator Pat Steadman, a Colorado Democrat, claims the issue will not arise again and that, “This is only a first-year problem.”

The “Stoner Holiday” that will shave $20 off the price of each ounce is an accidental gift from conservatives. After the permanent implementation of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) in 2005 voters must approve new taxes based on a formula based on state spending, collections, and population growth. If the amount collected is more than the estimates, the state is expected to issue refunds. Colorado is not actually collecting more pot taxes than estimated, in fact less is being collected than anticipated. But total state spending threw off the equation because of overall improvements to the economy. For reasons like this, many other states have criticized TABOR and have refused to enact it themselves.

When TABOR is triggered the tax rate is required to be cut to zero. The holiday is meant to appease this concession. A permanent decrease in the sales tax of marijuana to 8% is set to take effect in 2017 in order to more accurately represent a “fair tax” and to help control black market sales by minimizing the discrepancy of legal prices to street sales.

A vote will be held to determine whether or not the state can keep the excess tax collected. Citizens will be expected to turn up for a populous vote about the issue. Should the vote be “Yes”, the first $40 million will be used for school construction; a vote of “No” would see the money being refunded through tax refunds to growers and retailers, and the rest would be added to the refunds of citizens. It is not expected that the vote will garner much attention.

The curious predicament of the Colorado legislature will doubtless be widely debated as other states consider the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana.

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Colorado Pot

When Colorado voters passed state constitutional Amendment 64 by a margin of 54-43 in the 2012 election, they legalized marijuana for personal use with certain limitations.

Today the state is suffering from the law of unintended consequences.

Colorado has become a national magnet for pot smokers who do not want to deal with drug dealers . . . people suffering from painful and debilitating diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis . . . and young people – many below the age of 18 – who like the idea of blending into a population where the scent of pot smoke is not only accepted, its expected.

That’s not all.

A majority of pot smokers who are showing up at legal marijuana dispensaries in Denver and across the state are homeless and dependent on government agencies for housing, food, medical services and other welfare state programs. As a result, the state’s supply of beds in shelters is nearing exhaustion.

According to Brett Van Sickle, director of Denver’s Salvation Army Crossroads Shelter, “the older ones are coming for medical (marijuana)” . . . while “the younger ones are coming just because it’s legal” and that they have had to more than doubled their staff to deal with the influx.

Sickle added that the shelter conducted a survey of an estimated 500 new homeless moving to Colorado between July and September and learned that roughly 30 percent had relocated for pot – mostly to Denver.

Right now homeless advocates are awaiting the results of a study conducted by the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Criminal Justice and Criminology Department to learn if there is any direct relationship between legal marijuana and rates of homelessness.

Van Sickle reports that his shelter prohibits marijuana, other drugs and drug paraphernalia and that the homeless who stay at the shelter must leave it to light up adding that the confiscation of pot, pipes and other drug paraphernalia has increased although no numbers exist to say how much.

As mentioned, Colorado is seeing younger homeless people too. One facility called Urban Peak that targets services to youth 15-25 years of age have seen an increase of almost 40% in the number of homeless youth between May and July this year over the same period a year earlier.

It is worth noting that many of the older homeless live on disability benefits and use their benefits to buy pot since there is no prohibition against using disability and other cash based entitlement programs to do so.

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