Commissioners fight for retail marijuana sales tax projects

PUEBLO – The Board of Pueblo County Commissioners and County staff are fighting to protect $1.6 million in funding of community enhancement projects, millions more in future funding and to defend the County’s authority to collect a special retail marijuana sales tax.
 
On Tuesday, February 6, the Board of Pueblo County Commissioners held a work session meeting with organizations whose future funding for the following projects was put on hold:
Critical building system needs at the jail -  $750,000
Pueblo West tax sharing for pueblo west roads - $200,000
Sheriff body camera and Taser purchase under 5-year plan - $129,000
Fleet vehicle replacements - $100,000
Increased funding for Arts Center - $79,000
Pueblo Zoo operations - $65,000
Home of Hero sponsorship of Medal of Honor Convention - $50,000
Homeless prevention projects - $50,000
Human Relation Commission Opioid epidemic assistance program - $41,100
Pueblo Veteran's Ritual Team contribution toward van purchase - $10,000
Latino Chamber small business conference sponsorship - $7,500
Gang Alternative Program of Pueblo basketball court project - $7,500
 
The hold was imposed on December 20 because there may be an inability for Pueblo County to fund the projects due to a recent ruling in an Adams County appeals case that challenged any statutory County’s authority to impose a special sales tax on retail marijuana.
 
Pueblo County is evaluating two options. One of the options would be to intervene in an appeals case challenging the Adams County appeals case ruling in the Supreme Court. Pueblo County’s Attorney estimates that it would be a minimum of six months for a Supreme Court to decide whether to hear the case or not if another appeal was filed. He also estimated a final ruling by the Supreme Court could take up to or longer than two years. However, Pueblo County would prefer to not have to pursue a resolution through litigation.
 
Pueblo County is also looking at a legislative fix, which would be more timely and more definitive than a Supreme Court ruling. The Pueblo County Attorney’s Office is drafting a bill that would create a state statute providing that statutory counties have the express authority to impose a special sales tax on marijuana. Many stakeholders have already been consulted, including communities of Northglenn, Aurora, Thornton, the City of Pueblo, Adams County, the Colorado Municipal League (CML) and Colorado Counties Incorporated (CCI).
 
Pueblo County collects two marijuana-specific taxes. Only Pueblo County’s 3.5 percent sales tax on retail marijuana could be affected by the recent Adams County appellate court ruling. The 3.5 percent sales tax on retail marijuana is paid by retail marijuana consumers when they purchase retail marijuana from a licensed dispensary.
 
Pueblo County’s excise tax, which is not in question by the Adams County appellate court ruling, is a tax on all marijuana grown in Pueblo County. The tax is charged to the marijuana cultivator only once, when the marijuana is first sold or transferred to a retail store or manufacturer. Pueblo County has been collecting excise tax, by voter approval, since January 1, 2016. The excise tax rate is currently at two percent and will increase by one percent annually until a five percent excise tax rate is achieved. No less than half of the excise tax collected by the County is required to go into the Pueblo County Scholarship Fund. The remainder of the excise tax revenue must go towards a specific list of capital improvement projects.
 
Pueblo County will email organizations whose funds have been put on hold, when a draft of the bill is available in order to review the proposed bill before it’s presented to the state legislature.
 
CONTACT:                 For more information please contact Paris Carmichael, Pueblo BOCC Community Information Manager at carmichp@pueblocounty.us
or 719-252-8550.
 
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