Advocates for Proposition AA celebrated after the Associated Press and the Denver Post called the vote in their favor, Tuesday night, November 5, 2013 . Rick Ridder, left, high-fived Christian Sederberg, right, at a victor party in downtown Denver. Proposition AA would impose a pair of taxes on legal marijuana sales. (Denver Post file)

Colorado voters approve new taxes on recreational marijuana

A measure to impose hefty taxes on recreational marijuana passed easily Tuesday, as voters across the state overwhelmingly chose to make pot one of the most heavily taxed consumer products in Colorado.

At 10 p.m., Proposition AA was leading 65 percent to 35 percent.

The measure led a clean sweep of marijuana tax proposals on ballots across Colorado. From Boulder to Littleton to Denver, from Breckenridge and Silverthorne to Pueblo County to tiny Red Cliff, voters approved marijuana tax measures by large margins.

“The passage of Proposition AA today completes the historic process of regulating and taxing marijuana in the state of Colorado,” Brian Vicente, one of the architects of marijuana legalization and a proponent of the tax measure, said in a statement.

Colorado’s attorney general and a number of marijuana business owners – politically strange bedfellows – both supported Proposition AA. Gov. John Hickenlooper also supported the tax measure despite his opposition to marijuana legalization.

“Marijuana, Cheetos & Goldfish all legal in CO,” Hickenlooper wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night. “Now we’ll have the $$ to regulate, enforce & educate .”

Opponents of the tax, who gathered for a party where they distributed free marijuana joints, said they were disappointed.

“I think we played hard, fought the good fight and the ‘yes’ campaign is to be congratulated,” said Rob Corry, the leader of the campaign against the measure.

Proposition AA imposes a 15 percent excise tax on the wholesale price and an initial 10 percent sales tax on the retail price for recreational marijuana.

According to the state’s voter guide, the measure is expected to bring in $67 million a year. Of that, $27.5 million generated by the excise tax would go toward school construction, as specified in last year’s constitutional amendment that legalized use of recreational marijuana and also allowed for pot to be sold to anyone over 21 at specially licensed stores.

The rest of the money will go toward paying for the regulation of the pot shops, as well as any associated impacts of legalization.

Meanwhile, 11 cities and one county had their own proposals to tax recreational marijuana at the local level.

As of 10 p.m., voters in Boulder were approving that city’s marijuana tax proposal 67 percent to 33 percent. That measure would impose a 5 percent excise tax and a 3.5 percent sales tax.

Voters in Littleton were approving a marijuana tax measure – for a 3 percent sales tax – 63 percent to 37 percent.

Recreational marijuana sales would also be subject to standard state and local sales taxes.

All of those taxes combined are likely to amount to a hefty chunk of the retail price. For instance, if an eighth of an ounce of marijuana – a common purchase unit that is roughly equivalent to a 12-pack of beer – costs $30 at the retail level and $15 at the wholesale level, state taxes alone would be about $6, or around 20 percent.

Some areas – such as Boulder, Carbondale and Manitou Springs – will have tax rates on marijuana that exceed 30 percent, according to a Denver Post analysis. In Denver, the rate will be nearly 29 percent, or $8.59, on that $30 eighth of an ounce of pot.

Opponents of the tax say that’s too pricey and will lead people to continue buying marijuana from black-market dealers. Proponents said marijuana consumers would gladly pay extra for legitimacy.

“Colorado is demonstrating to the rest of the nation that it is possible to end marijuana prohibition and successfully regulate marijuana like alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, one of the activists instrumental in passing marijuana legalization in Colorado a year ago.

Proponents vastly out-raised opponents during the campaign, although Corry’s side gained the most attention through its free-marijuana giveaways.

“This was an uphill battle from our side from the beginning,” Corry said. “We did succeed in getting people talking about taxes.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, or

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