Colorado treats marijuana taxes like ‘a piggy bank.’ But now top lawmakers want to limit spending to two areas.
Colorado lawmakers “hear it all the time,” says Sen. Rachel Zenzinger.
“There’s so much suspicion around what we’re doing with marijuana money,” the Arvada Democrat told The Colorado Sun. “There is this perception that there’s a lot of money and we’re just not spending it on education like we should.”
The complaints from constituents and policy advocates are aimed at the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, a depository for about half of the $272 million the state is expected to generate this fiscal year from marijuana-related taxes. The legislature has guidelines for how the money should be spent, but lawmakers can use it for just about anything they want. And in practice, they do, splitting the money among dozens of different programs, across more than a dozen state agencies.
“Right now, it just kind of is a piggy bank that folks look to when they want something funded,” said Sen. Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat who leads the Joint Budget Committee. “It has become a pool of money that you can just raid.”
Now — five-plus years and $1 billion in tax collections since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado — top Democratic budget writers say they want to change how pot tax revenue is appropriated, recommending new guardrails for a fund that will total $159 million next budget year. The result: Instead of the 14 preferred uses for marijuana money currently spelled out in state law, state budget writers have settled on just two priorities: education and the opioid crisis.
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