Aug 24, 2010 11:08 PM by Jeannette Hynes
The growing medical marijuana business is bringing money into local government. How much is relative.
After Governor Bill Ritter announced a plan Monday to use $9 million dollars from the state's Medical Marijuana Program Cash Fund (paid by patients to receive a medical marijuana card) to help balance next year's budget, News First 5 decided to look into how the industry was impacting local coffers.
So far this year, Colorado Springs has collected $216,697 dollars in sales tax from medical marijuana, with a projected $600,000 by year's end. It has also collected $225,500 from medical marijuana pre-registration fees.
That's a lot of money, unless you're planning the city budget.
"It's small relative to the budget. Our budget is 212 million in the general fund budget so 500,000 to 600,000 is a small amount," says Kara Skinner, financial planning manager for Colorado Springs.
Compare the medical marijuana sales tax money to car dealers. That industry has put in around $5.4 million to the city so far this year.
Furniture, appliances, and electronics businesses have contributed $3.3 million.
El Paso County has collected more than $100,000 from medical marijuana so far this year. Its annual sales and use tax projection is $63 million, collected from all businesses and services.
"In county government terms, we think every dollar is a lot of money. On a percentage basis, it's not significant, but yes it is money," explains Dave Rose, spokesperson for El Paso County.
The city and county are both looking at different regulations for medical marijuana. If city council puts together a licensing and application fee structure, the finance department estimates it could generate $1.2 million dollars next year.
That's enough money to turn on all the street lights around the city again.
Local governments are also trying to factor in how much this budding industry will cost the government. Monday night, Pueblo City Council approved to increase the licensing fee to nearly $6,000 after talking with Police Chief Jim Billings about the cost of monitoring the businesses and enforcing the laws.
Thursday, El Paso County commissioners will discuss a possible ballot question, fees, and regulations for medical marijuana.