Pictured: A file photo of a transaction for legal marijuana in Colorado. (Denver Post file)

Pot tax: Caution trumps ambition as budget plan heads to Colo. legislature

A Colorado legislative committee on Tuesday approved a cautious plan for spending marijuana tax revenue in the next fiscal year — coming more than $20 million below what Gov. John Hickenlooper had requested.

The plan approved by the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee calls for $31.4 million — including $22.9 million from marijuana taxes — to be put into prevention of youth drug use, addiction treatment, research and public education campaigns. Hickenlooper originally requested to spend nearly $75 million but later scaled back his proposal to $54 million.

Related: More coverage on pot tax revenue — looking at the first months of recreational sales and how quickly spending plans have changed.

Hickenlooper’s proposal would have spent Colorado pot tax money as it came in.

Joint Budget Committee members, though, opted for a more cautious plan, requiring that lawmakers not spend money from marijuana taxes until the year after it is collected to guard against volatility.

As a result, the committee’s plan, which is set to be introduced to the full legislature this week, cuts back on even Hickenlooper’s most bare-bones proposal for funding things like oral fluid testing devices for police looking to catch stoned drivers.

Video: N.J. Gov. Chris Christie: “For the people who are enamored with the idea with the income, the tax revenue from this, go to Colorado and see if you want to live there.”

Committee members made several final tweaks to the plan Tuesday, shifting some of the money that was to be designated for youth marijuana-use prevention to adult drug treatment.

Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said the plan initially felt weighted too heavily toward prevention and enforcement programs.

“I think it’s wrong of us to miss the opportunity to dedicate a portion of these new revenues to treatment,” he said.

The finalized plan won unanimous support from the committee. But Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, alluding to heavy lobbying on the spending plan, said it likely will change before it reaches Hickenlooper’s desk.

“We’re going to be picked apart as soon as this becomes public,” she said.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com