The Colorado legislature is desperately trying to finagle its way out of having to refund an excess of tax revenues generated from legal cannabis sales in the Centennial State. So much tax money has been brought into the state’s coffers since marijuana was legalized in 2014 that a portion of it will have to be refunded to taxpayers in accordance with Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.
Passed in 1992, the voter-approved constitutional amendment requires the state of Colorado to refund taxpayers when the state brings in more tax revenue than allotted under the law. Based on a formula that looks at both inflation and population growth, any determined overpayments are directly refunded to taxpayers, a situation that has occurred six times since the amendment was passed, with more than $3.3 billion being disbursed.
The purpose of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights is to protect Colorado taxpayers from being bilked by the government — once the approved threshold for a particular tax is reached, the government is prohibited from collecting any more and must refund any excess. Sounds perfectly fair, right? Except in the case of legal cannabis, both Republicans and Democrats are playing politics and attempting to revive Reefer Madness-era stigmas about marijuana in order to keep tax money that doesn’t belong to them.
According to reports, a bipartisan effort at the state level is seeking to create a new ballot amendment that, if voters approve it, will exempt cannabis tax revenue from having to be refunded once it exceeds the legal limit. The politicians pushing this needless exemption have no legitimate reason for doing so other than “it’s marijuana!” — which is no longer a valid argument in this post-prohibition era.
“I think it’s appropriate that we keep the money for marijuana that the voters said that we should,” was the empty argument put forth by Republican Senate President Bill Cadman, who supports creating a special ballot question to exempt cannabistaxes from being included as part of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.