Practically a made-to-order argument for creating the City and County of Aurora, Adams County officials insist on overstepping the intent and letter of state law and wrongly taxing marijuana sales in Aurora.

If the courts and common sense doesn’t stop them, voters need to do the job.

Aurora Sentinel Badge

Aurora is trying to get its nascent recreational marijuana industry off the ground, and voters just this fall approved a local tax of 2 percent, on top of the already steep 18 percent that local shoppers would add to the tab.

In a sneaky end run, Adams County at the 11th hour added a question to the 2014 ballot, asking whether to impose a special 3 percent sales tax on all pot shops in the county, not just future pot shops in unincorporated Adams County. In fact, the county has no pot shops. This week, Adams County just announced the lottery winners of licenses for future recreational marijuana shops.

Voters approved both the Adams County and Aurora pot tax measures. They looked a lot alike to the average voter. The difference is, the Adams County tax is illegal for two reasons. First, counties are prohibited from creating special industry taxes, with few exceptions. And even those taxes, such as hotel and motel taxes, can’t be imposed on hotels inside a city’s boundaries.

More importantly, authors of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, specifically precluded counties from “double-dip” pot taxes.

What Adams County has done so far affects just one recreational pot operation in Aurora, but it puts that pot-shop owner at a disadvantage over other area shops because the tax rate is 3 percent higher than anywhere else nearby.

But even more dangerous is the increasingly too-high tax rate on recreational pot. Paying a 20-percent sales tax surcharge on pot has driven the price too far beyond the cost of black-market pot. Adding yet another 3 percent makes the taxation a compelling reason to either get a faked medical marijuana card, avoiding almost all taxes, or buying the pot from the black market. The most important reason Amendment 64 passed was to legalize the industry, taking it out of the hands of murderous gangs and criminals. This works against that directive.

But even beyond the tax ramifications, which have a long and clear precedent, the move by Adams County begs the question, why? Aurora’s justification for adding onto the already burdensome marijuana sales taxes is the need for manpower to license and monitor this new industry. Aurora will have about 24 pot shops by the end of the year. Adams County provides no police, fire, administrative, regulatory or oversight services to this, or any Aurora business, beyond what property taxes already pay for.

While you can squint hard and see the need for extra taxes among a handful of pot shops in unincorporated Adams County, which must be regulated by county government, what Adams County did by reaching into Aurora and any other Adams County municipality that eventually opens pot shops is just plain greedy. Arguments that legal marijuana means an increased need for county-run social services and law enforcement is a non-starter. Those issues are the reason the state already collects so much sales tax on pot sales. Those receipts are now supposed to be passed down to local county agencies, which are extensions of state government.

No, no and no. Aurora state Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Adams County, is the prime sponsor for Senate Bill 40, trying to legalize this scheme. Hodge needs to amend or kill the measure so that counties don’t double dip and do damage to an already precarious recreational marijuana industry. While neighboring counties say they want to show how unneeded the creation of an Aurora City-County government would be, it’s antics like this that make a combined Aurora government more attractive all the time.

3 replies on “EDITORIAL: Stop Adams County from bogarting Aurora pot-shop taxes”

    1. bo·gart




      gerund or present participle: bogarting

      selfishly appropriate or keep (something, especially a lit marijuana cigarette).

Comments are closed.