PUEBLO — Since marijuana has been legalized in the state of Colorado, many people have been left wondering where exactly the tax money is going. A new citizen led group in Pueblo aims to better communicate how it is used, and provide community input into how people would like to see it used.
Seven volunteers from different areas in Pueblo County will be meeting four times a year to break down where both the excise and retail sales taxes on recreational marijuana are being spent. Jason Chippeaux is now the chair of the committee, and said there's no shortage of need for the money in the community, and there are lots of ideas as to how it should be used. "My interest primarily was that of a citizen, with two kids who live in Pueblo, and rooting for the best for Pueblo," said Chippeaux.
There are two kinds of taxes placed on recreational marijuana: excise and retail sales taxes. Excise taxes are essentially on the first sale of recreational marijuana from where it was grown to a shop or manufacturer. Right now, in Pueblo County, excise taxes are split into two categories, with half going to scholarships and the other half for special projects. "Golf carts at Desert Hawk Golf Course, I think some safe routes to school projects and some other projects of that nature, streetscaping at the Colorado State Fair, improvements at Confluence Park, some of those projects have not been completed yet. I believe we have about three or four outstanding projects, but a good portion of them have been completed," said Pueblo County Commissioner Garrison Ortiz, who listed off some projects funded by excise taxes.
Pueblo County also charges a 3.5% sales tax on recreational marijuana, and that money goes to the Marijuana Cash Impact Fund which can be used in different ways. Both excise and retail sales taxes are projected in the millions for the county for 2019.
Those with the group said they plan to produce an annual report around this time next year. "By the end of this year, our goal is to deliver that report to the community with any recommendations or suggestions about improving the way that these dollars are administered," said Commissioner Ortiz.
The State of Colorado still charges a 15% sales tax on retail marijuana purchases, and it shares back 10% of that to local governments every month. The share each area receives is based on the percentage of how much retail marijuana is sold there.