Customers wait in line to enter LoDo Wellness in downtown Denver on the first day of retail sales of marijuana in Colorado on Jan. 1, 2014. (AAron Ontiveroz, Denver Post file)

Denver marijuana tax refund: Plan for city ballot measure passes first step

Denver voters in November may decide whether the city can keep its first-year haul from a 3.5 percent special recreational marijuana sales tax.

The city’s ballot question would join a likely statewide measure asking the same question about $58 million collected by the state last year from its separate marijuana tax. In Denver’s case, at stake is nearly $5.3 million.

A City Council committee approved the wording 5-0 Wednesday. The measure is expected to get the council’s final sign-off June 8.

The city and the state must ask voters to let them keep the entire amounts because of rules under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. A booming economy resulted in higher revenue for both last year than had been projected when voters approved the state and local taxes on recreational marijuana.

TABOR requires that all of those new taxes be refunded, unless voters give the governments the green light to spend the money. Denver’s proposed ballot question also would ask for permission to keep collecting the full tax.

Most of the state tax money would go to public school construction.

The city has used some of its collections for increased inspections, enforcement and public education about marijuana. The rest hasn’t been earmarked, although the city tapped $3.2 million from pot taxes to help cover higher costs for the Central Denver Recreation Center project.

Last year, Denver collected $12.8 million from recreational marijuana sales, including from the regular sales tax and a cut of the state tax. The city also collected $6.6 million in taxes on sales of medical marijuana.

Jon Murray: 303-954-1405, or

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