Marijuana tax: will it go to schools?

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Getting marijuana tax revenue to Colorado public schools may not be as easy as voters thought when voting on Amendment 64, which said the first $40 million in tax revenue would go towards a capitol fund for Colorado schools.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said the 15 percent surtax on marijuana is not guaranteed, as proponents of Amendment 64 led voters to believe.

"Amendment 64 did not comply with required language under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and no such tax will be imposed," Suthers said in a statement released Thursday. "Instead, it will be up to Colorado Legislature whether to refer such a tax to the voters, and up to the voters of Colorado whether to actually impose the tax."

In order for the tax to be implemented, Colorado Legislature must first decide to put the issue to voters in a 2013, and voters must then approve the measure. Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, the group that wrote Amendment 64, said she believes this is likely to occur.

"The voters overwhelmingly supported Amendment 64 on Tuesday, I can't imagine that they wouldn't support an excise tax on marijuana sales," Aldworth said.

For voters like CMU student Ashley Forrest, the wording on the ballot led her to believe the tax was a sure-thing.

"A lot of the reason people vote yet is to help out," Forrest said. "The Grand Valley needs more money coming in helping schools and they're talking about shutting down schools and that's half the reason people wanted to vote yes for it."

Aldworth, however, said there was nothing hazy about Amendment 64. She said TABOR restrictions made it difficult to include tax details in the ballot measure.

"They did a loophole trying to figure out, of if we say this, then we can get it passed, and it did," said Grand Junction resident Charles Hockenhull.

Aldworth said the State will start issuing marijuana store licenses in about a year, and believes by the time those stores are open, voters will have passed the excise tax measure on marijuana.

Still, Suthers called the revenue "speculative" and will "not be forthcoming when Amendment 64 begins to be implemented."

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