Amendment 64, which was passed by Colorado voters in 2012, allows adults 21 years of age or older to consume or possess up to one ounce of marijuana and requires the state to establish a regulatory structure for the retail marijuana industry. Amendment 64 also requires the state legislature to enact an excise tax on retail marijuana with the first $40 million per year dedicated to fund public school construction.
In 2013, Colorado voters approved Proposition AA, which allows the state to levy up to a 15 percent excise tax on unprocessed retail marijuana as well as up to a 15 percent retail sales tax on retail marijuana.1 In addition to the these taxes, both retail and medical marijuana are subject to the 2.9 percent state sales tax, which applies to the retail sale of most goods and services. Proposition BB, which was approved by voters in 2015, is a voter-approved revenue change, exempting the 10 percent retail and 15 percent excise tax from the spending limits of TABOR. The 2.9 percent sales tax on both retail and medical marijuana sales is subject to TABOR’s limits.
Both medical and retail marijuana are subject to the 2.9 percent state sales tax, which is applied to most purchases of tangible personal property in the state. Additionally, beginning in 2014, retail marijuana is subject to a 10 percent sales tax, levied on retail sales, and a 15 percent excise tax, levied on the first transfer of marijuana from a wholesaler to a processor or retailer.
Medical marijuana is exempt from the 10 percent sales tax and 15 percent excise tax.
Via the Old Age Pension Fund, marijuana tax revenue is allocated to the General Fund.2 From the General Fund, revenue from the marijuana retail sales tax and excise tax are distributed differently.
Fifteen percent of the revenue from the 10 percent tax on marijuana retail sales is allocated to local governments and apportioned according to the percentage of marijuana retail sales occurring within city and county boundaries. The remaining 85 percent is allocated to the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund. Revenue in this fund is required to be spent the year after it is collected and used for health care, health education, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, and law enforcement.3
The first $40 million in marijuana excise tax revenue is credited to the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Fund. The BEST Fund is used to renew or replace deteriorating public schools. BEST grants are awarded on a competitive basis annually and funding is prioritized based on issues such as asbestos removal, building code violations, overcrowding, and poor indoor air quality. Revenue in excess of $40 million is credited to the Public School Fund.4
As of 2015, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington are the only states that levy a tax specifically on marijuana. In Washington State, marijuana is taxed at 37 percent of the retail sales price. The state also levies a 6.5 percent tax on business and occupation (B&O) gross receipts. In Oregon, producers are taxed at a rate of $35 per ounce.
3Section 39-28.8-203, C.R.S.