Taurean Wilson of Botana Care, left, helps customer Kevin Murphy at the Northglenn marijuana retailer earlier this year. (Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file)

Northglenn council peeved about dueling pot tax Q’s on ballot

Some members of Northglenn City Council are heated over a marijuana tax measure that the Adams County commissioners put on the November ballot. They say it competes with a city marijuana tax also being posed to voters this fall.

The Adams County board of commissioners voted Sept. 2 to put on the ballot a 3 percent tax hike on retail marijuana and related products countywide.

Likewise, Northglenn voted Sept. 25 to ask voters to raise medical and retail marijuana taxes by 2 percent in order to fund a new combination recreation center, theater and senior center in the city.

“There was no communication, whatsoever,” said Northglenn Ward 3 Councilor Kyle Mullica. The commissioners “want to come in and tax the municipalities that do have marijuana, yet they don’t have it themselves. We’re the main people in the county that this is going to affect.”

There is currently a moratorium in Adams County, putting off the decision to allow or ban retail marijuana in unincorporated areas until the end of the year. The county tax would draw from Northglenn and Aurora, the only two cities in the county to begin regulating local sales of marijuana. Federal Heights will ask voters in November to consider retail operations in the city.

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“We weren’t even aware that (Northglenn was putting a marijuana tax on the ballot),” said Adams County Commissioner Eva Henry. “It’s one of those miscommunications that go both ways. We could have been talking to them and they could have been talking to us.”

Right now, Northglenn retail marijuana consumers pay 18.75 percent in total taxes (that’s state, city, county, special district and Colorado excise tax). If both measures pass, Northglenn marijuana consumers would pay 10.75 percent in taxes for medical and 23.75 percent for retail marijuana.

Adams County would begin collecting taxes from the eligible cities beginning July 1, 2015. The Northglenn measure would begin drawing revenue in January.

The county anticipates about $1.2 million in revenue in the first full year (2016). Northglenn projects about $450,000 a year on the city’s six licensed retail and medical marijuana businesses now in operation.

“I believe that this is a case of really bad timing,” said Northglenn Ward 1 Councilmember Carol Dodge. “My problem is that Northglenn has gone out on a limb (to legalize and regulate marijuana), and now Adams County is making a grab at money I don’t feel they really deserve. It’s affecting a ballot measure that we really want to see get passed.”

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Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco said the county measure was put on the ballot as an early regulation step in case the new five-member board votes to lift the marijuana ban next year.

“The worst thing we can do is be unprepared if we decide to lift the moratorium,” Tedesco said. “We want all of this in place so that we’re doing the right things.”

Funds from the county tax would cover regulation costs. An unspecified portion would also be used as general grant funding for schools.

Adams County Commissioner Erik Hansen opposed the tax measure Sept. 2. He said he believes that the ballot question is paving the way for marijuana in unincorporated parts of the county.

“I’m concerned because I see it a precursor to allowing retail operations in neighborhoods,” Hansen said. “There was no public comment whatsoever … I think that’s problematic when you’re dealing with an issue this big that people have diverse opinions on.”

This story was first published on DenverPost.com