Aurora balks at Adams County ballot question on pot tax

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    AURORA | Aurora voters in Adams County have two marijuana-related tax measure on their ballots, and one is a smoldering controversy.

    Aurora’s Proposition 2A  is asking voters to approve a 2 percent sales tax on retail marijuana products, and a 5 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana sold in the city. Proposition 1A is asking Adams County voters  to approve a 3 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana that would be applied to retail marijuana stores throughout the county, even on top of special sales taxes in incorporated cities like Aurora. Adams County has a moratorium on retail marijuana in unincorporated areas, which is likely to be lifted next July.

    Adams County Board of County Commissioners approved the ballot measure in September, but Aurora city staff and council members are questioning whether the measure is legal.

    At a study session Oct. 20, Aurora City Council members unanimously agreed  to pass a resolution opposing the measure, stating it violates Colorado law.

    Aurora City Attorney Mike Hyman said at the session that unless the legislature gives Adams County the approval to tax home-rule cities like Aurora, the county does not have the authority to tax the city. He said that two bills were  being drafted for next year’s legislative session that could give the county that authority.

     Aurora and Northglenn, the  only cities in the county where recreational marijuana has been approved, have opposed the measure based on the fact that it could affect their own ballot measures and impact marijuana sales negatively. The tax could also affect Federal Heights, which is asking voters to approve retail sales this November. Aurora is the only city in the county with operating marijuana stores.

    “We want to make sure we’ve taken the proper steps to cover any action the future board may take towards marijuana, especially concerning retail marijuana,” said Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco said in response to the concerns. 

    Kevin Bommer, deputy director of the Colorado Municipal League, agreed Adams County does not have the authority to impose special sales taxes under the rules of Amendment 64, but legislation being drafted could change that. CML has not taken a side on the ballot question. 

    He said Pueblo County is the only other county in the state that imposes a special county-wide sales tax on recreational marijuana. “There wasn’t a conflict down there like there is in Adams county,” he said, explaining that retail marijuana operations are only allowed in unincorporated Pueblo County anyway.

    “That’s like us imposing a tax on Greewnood Village,” said Aurora Councilman Bob Roth, who also chaired Aurora’s Amendment 64 Ad Hoc committee, in a conversation before the study session. “I’m not sure how they’re proposing to do that.”