Marijuana excise tax grows again

mmjJohn Scarffe, Gilpin County.  The Gilpin County Board of Commissioners discussed the possibility of placing an excise tax for marijuana grow operations on the November ballot again during a regular meeting on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, at the Gilpin County Courthouse. The Commissioners also discussed the issue at their February 9 meeting.

Commissioner Gail Watson brought up the issue toward the end of the March 22 meeting. County Manager Roger Baker said he had just received a response from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) that morning regarding assistance from the department on the issue and said the department would have someone from their marijuana impact program available for assistance at the end of this month.

“We need some help,” Watson said. “How do we research the impact of this?” Baker said he was not sure what the Board wanted to accomplish. Do they need help with legal problems? How much money could this raise, and what will the impact be in general?

Baker said that Community Development Director Tony Petersen had a lot of knowledge on the issue. “What we can’t get from Tony is whether or not people would come.”

Watson said the County needs people to gather information from law enforcement. DOLA and Colorado Counties, Inc., (CCI) have a pretty good handle on that. Commissioner Buddy Schmalz cautioned that the County needs to be careful and shouldn’t rush just because there’s a deadline for the ballot.

Baker suggested that the Board could authorize the collection of an excise tax without knowing whether anyone would use it, but Watson said that would mean the County is condoning marijuana grows. “I don’t know that we’re condoning it.”

Schmalz asked what is the impact, and what does that mean to us? Baker said, “We continue to get calls all of the time, not just about cultivations but manufacturing.” Watson said the County would have to limit the number of grow operations. “We can’t have every area become a grow. Can we increase our county revenue, and do we want to?”

Board Chair Linda Isenhart said the deadline for ballot items is July 26. “I think we have some time to do some research.” Watson pointed out that the excise tax has to be collected, and it’s the County’s responsibility. “We don’t have anything in place for collecting taxes. We have to put some infrastructure in place.”

Petersen suggested that the County goes ahead with it on the ballot because it’s not binding. The tax can be no more than 5 percent. He will have some information before July about how the County can maximize the revenue. “I have a feeling that, if you open it up, it will come,” Petersen said. “It all depends on if you want to maximize your revenue.”

Isenhart pointed out that the County’s economy is stagnant right now, except for gaming. “Let’s see where we’re hoping to go with it. We don’t want to be the marijuana growing capital of Colorado.”

Petersen said, “I’ll be answering those questions.” While on subject, one of the owners of a County marijuana sales outlet is being evicted from her lease. She has property on the county line.

If she moves to a different location, the County will have to change its relationship with her. Due to regulations, she can’t expand or move because the store at the current location was grandfathered in before the Board placed a moratorium on any further grows or retail outlets.

Petersen introduced Francine Trujillo, whose business is at 9 Karlann Dr., across Highway 119 from Taggert’s. Trujillo said the landlord at her current location would not renew the lease.

“I’m asking for help,” Trujillo said. “It’s just a recreational grow and dispensary. We’re kind of in a bind.” She has spoken to the owner of the Grocery Store in Rollinsville. The store used to house a medical marijuana facility in the basement.

In response to a question from Watson, she replied that there is enough of a market to support the business. Watson also was concerned about the condition of electricity and water in the store. Trujillo said she would be fine with the basement. She spoke to the State, and if they were using the well before a certain date, which they were, they could have access to it and could fill up their water supply once a month.

Schmalz said the Commissioners had been wrestling with the fact that they have no ability to tax grows, so they put on the prohibition. “If we open it up we could see all available areas become cultivations.”

Watson said the Board can’t vote on something that comes before it without more information. Isenhart agreed and said they have to have something by July 21. “We need expert advice. We want to move on this.”