Doctors, hospital leaders endorse pot tax proposal
Levy would generate funds for substance abuse prevention, treatment
Steamboat Springs — Leaders of the local medical community are throwing their support behind a marijuana tax proposal that would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for substance abuse prevention and treatment efforts.
Steamboat Springs City Councilman Tony Connell wants the city to ask voters to approve a 5 percent excise tax on the sale of recreational marijuana in the city.
City officials estimate the tax would generate at least $350,000 next year.
Connell has described substance abuse as a local epidemic that needs to be addressed.
“It truly is an epidemic, and to me, waiting to address (the issue of substance abuse) is not an option. We need to do something sooner,” Connell said Friday.
The additional marijuana tax revenue would be used for substance abuse programs, prevention education, mental health, counseling and law enforcement activities, Connell said.
Those endorsing the proposal include Tom Gangel, regional director of Mind Springs Health; Dave Wilkinson, emergency director for Yampa Valley Medical Center; several staff members at the Foundry, a local rehabilitation center; and YVMC CEO Frank May.
“The funds generated from the marijuana tax would provide critical resources to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the crippling effects on both individuals and the community when the intersection of untreated mental health conditions and abuse of both legal and illegal substances reaches the levels we are currently experiencing,” May wrote in a letter to the council.
May urged the council to begin gauging community support for the tax measure and consider approving it for the November ballot.
Other medical professionals who addressed the council Tuesday said substance abuse is extremely costly to the community, and nine individuals in Northwest Colorado have died already this year from overdoses.
Ken Davis, a local physician’s assistant who co-chairs a new task force that is addressing opiate and heroin abuse, told the council he is also seeing many complications from patients using marijuana.
He said a tax could have multiple benefits.
“If (the revenue from a marijuana tax) is leveraged properly for treatment and resources and working with law enforcement, we could really have a big impact in our region,” Davis said.
The council agreed to talk more about a potential marijuana tax proposal at an upcoming work session. The date of the session is yet to be determined.
David Brodsky, operations manager of Natural Choice, a local marijuana dispensary, urged the council to make the tax proposal more equitable to the marijuana industry by also applying it to alcohol sales.
Brodsky estimated a 1 percent tax on both alcohol and marijuana sales could generate the same amount of revenue as a 5 percent tax solely on marijuana sales.
Using data from the police department, he also noted alcohol use fuels more crime and issues in Steamboat than marijuana use.
What do you think of a potential marijuana excise tax?
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