DENVER–Colorado Senate President John Morse blasted the pot industry after a repeal effort failed late Monday, accusing proponents of trying to hoodwink voters by working to defeat the proposed tax increase on recreational marijuana.
An eleventh-hour bid to give voters the option of repealing Amendment 64 died after legislators decided against bringing it to the Senate floor.
Given the late hour, the move all but guarantees that any repeal effort will have to wait until next year’s session.
The Senate proposal had 24 Senate co-sponsors, the exact number needed to place it on the November ballot as a constitutional amendment, but was certain to face tough House opposition. Both houses would have needed to pass the resolution with a two-thirds vote to bring the measure before the voters.
Senate President Morse (D-Colo. Springs) slammed supporters of legal marijuana after the bill died, accusing pro-pot groups of a bait-and-switch by telling voters that legalization would pay for school construction but then showing no inclination to get behind the promised taxes.
Amendment 64 instructed lawmakers to place a 15 percent excise tax on the ballot, but there’s no guarantee that voters will pass the tax. Under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, only voters can approve a tax hike.
“[H]ere is the inherent problem, the marijuana industry has no incentive to support a tax increase it promised voters (benefiting schools),” said Morse in a hastily drawn-up statement. “The industry intentionally worded the initiative to force a second ballot question to the voters.”
He said the marijuana industry may oppose the tax increase–”with their millions from out of state.”
“The voters wanted legalized marijuana and a tax that funded schools. But it is a strong reality that the tax will not pass. I have yet to meet an industry that supports increasing taxes on themselves,” said Morse.
The Democratic leader called on the industry to campaign in favor of passing the excise tax along with a special sales tax to fund a state-run marijuana regulatory framework.
“I hope that the representatives of the marijuana industry will stick with their commitment to support this tax and stop the shenanigans,” said Morse. “The voters charged us with two mandates: 1) create a framework for legalized marijuana and 2) tax it.”
If the November tax-hike measure fails, Morse vowed to bring the repeal proposal again to the state legislature.
“If the tax measure is unsuccessful in November, the Colorado taxpayers will not be left holding the bag–the legislature will take this issue up again,” said Morse.
Other Democrats have insisted that the 15 percent excise tax and 15 percent special sales tax on recreational marijuana will pass easily, pointing to a poll released last week by Public Policy Polling showing that 77 percent of voters support a proposed sales tax.
During debate last week, state Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) called worries about a defeat at the ballot box “fear-mongering,” while state Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont) said the legislature can jack up fees on the industry to make up for any lack of tax revenue.
Amendment 64 sets aside the first $40 million from the proposed excise tax for school construction. Colorado State University issued a report last month suggesting that the proposed excise tax alone may not be enough to cover the costs of regulation.