Will retail marijuana question clear second City Council vote? | CraigDailyPress.com

Will retail marijuana question clear second City Council vote?

Lauren Blair

Craig City Council will take a final vote on ordinances Tuesday that would refer retail marijuana questions to the April ballot, but the vote has the potential to end in a draw if all six members of council are seated. Thirteen community members shared their opinions during the public comment period of the Jan. 10 meeting.

— Craig City Council will take a final vote Tuesday on proposed ordinances that would put retail marijuana on the ballot for the city's April election.

The ordinances cleared a first reading at City Council's Jan. 10 meeting by a 3-2 vote. Councilman Kent Nielson — who is also acting as mayor pro tem until April — was absent from the meeting, but if all six members are seated Tuesday, the vote has the potential to end in a tie. Nielson spoke out against the measures in council’s Dec. 13 meeting.

City Attorney Sherman Romney explained that the question of retail marijuana and the taxing of it is divided into separate measures because, legally, it has to be.

"In the Colorado Constitution, there's something called the single subject rule that says you can only have one subject in a ballot question," said Romney, who drafted the questions.

The Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, also prohibits tax questions from being combined with other questions.

The first measure contains the big ask: Should the establishment and operation of retail marijuana stores be permitted in the City of Craig as well as cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities?

Recommended Stories For You

The second measure asks voters whether the city should levy a 5-percent sales tax on retail and medical marijuana, something Paul James, manager of the Craig Apothecary and member of the Committee to Grow Craig, opposes.

"I see mostly elderly people, most of them on fixed incomes. I see cancer patients, people with multiple sclerosis," James said. The Apothecary currently serves only medical marijuana patients. "You shouldn't make sick people pay more for their medicine… Why should (they) pay the same amount of money as someone who just wants to get high?"

The third measure asks voters whether the city should levy an additional 5 percent excise tax on the first sale or transfer of retail marijuana from a cultivation facility to either a retail store or manufacturing facility.

One of the biggest arguments for the city to allow retail marijuana is the tax revenue it can generate, but with all three measures standing on their own, the possibility exists for one to pass and the others to fail. However, in the process of researching the ordinances, Romney came across a few municipalities that have passed tax measures while the retail marijuana measure failed but did not find an instance of the reverse.

"I can see people's concern about that, and that's why folks that may not be in support of retail marijuana may want to vote in favor of the tax just in case it passes," Romney said, assuming voters get the chance to vote on it.

James and the Committee to Grow Craig are supportive of taxing retail marijuana for the benefit it would provide to the city's budget, with the exception of taxing medical marijuana.

"That is half the reason we're doing this is to help Craig out," James said.

In addition to the local sales tax, if approved by voters, a state sales tax of 2.9 percent is levied on retail marijuana, in addition to a special sales tax at the point of sale of 10 percent.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.