Our view: Pot tax should be approved | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Pot tax should be approved

At issue:

Voters will be deciding the future of a 5 percent excise tax on future sales of pot grown in Routt County.

Our view:

The measure deserves a “yes” vote so the county has a taxing mechanism in place if county commissioners ever decide to lift the moratorium on marijuana grow facilities in Routt County.

Routt County voters are being asked to consider approving a 5 percent excise tax on the sale of unprocessed retail marijuana grown by a retail marijuana cultivation facility located within unincorporated portions of the county. The measure is Referendum 1A on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Our view:

The measure deserves a “yes” vote so the county has a taxing mechanism in place if county commissioners ever decide to lift the moratorium on marijuana grow facilities in Routt County.

According to the ballot language, which is vague, the tax, if approved, would be used to fund public health and safety, county facilities and expenses related to public transportation.

Some could read the ballot and infer that Routt County has lifted it moratorium on retail marijuana grow facilities, but that is not the case. Instead, the county is planning ahead for a time when the commission might allow marijuana grows. If voters approve Referendum 1A, and a decision is eventually made to lift the moratorium, a mechanism to tax the product produced at these facilities is already in place.

This vote is not about whether or not the county should allow marijuana grow facilities, but about whether or not the county should tax the industry, and we think that question deserves a resounding “yes.”

We also editorialized in favor of a similar ballot issue proposed by the town of Hayden last November. Voters approved a 7.5 percent excise tax on all legal wholesale marijuana grown within the Hayden town limits, and in a special election in January, the town voted to allow commercial grow operations in the town.

The measure passed, and town officials are now looking to the revenue from grow operations as a way to improve the town’s fiscal future.

Hayden town officials have voiced their concerns that the 5 percent excise tax proposed by the county would price the town out of the market and “cripple” its ability to entice marijuana grow businesses to locate there. While we appreciate the town leaders’ concerns, we think the higher excise tax would be offset by other factors, such as access to water and sewer and the need to purchase or lease larger tracts of the land in the county for business sites.

In the end, we don’t think the 2.5 percent difference in the two excise tax rates will impact Hayden’s ability to entice marijuana grow operators to do business there, and we don’t see it as a valid reason to vote against the measure.

If county commissioners do choose to begin allowing marijuana grow operations in unincorporated Routt County some time in the future, a “yes” vote on Referendum 1A would ensure the county could tax those businesses to offset costs associated with overseeing this new industry, which in turn would provide the county with a new revenue stream. And if the moratorium remains in place, there would be nothing to tax. It’s that simple.

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