PERRY: Overtaxing legal marijuana is the dream of drug thugs and naive lawmakers


Take a deep breath, folks, we need to recall why it is that Colorado voters decided to end marijuana prohibition in the first place.

I can tell you this as Denver gears up to pile taxes upon taxes for legal weed and cities like Aurora salivate over how to regulate shops and grow-houses right out of existence: voters didn’t approve Amendment 64 to have government officials make it unworkable.

forperrycol8.1The reason legalizing recreational marijuana was so attractive to voters last year is because most people “get” the lessons learned when Congress outlawed booze during Prohibition. What we now know about American drug use is that Americans will buy and use illicit drugs no matter the consequences, no matter the price and no matter the law. The bigger problem is that the business of illicit drugs falls to ruthless criminals, and billions of dollars spent on buying drugs goes untaxed.

We all know the War on Drugs is a failed, lose-lose situation. The U.S. War on Drugs has resulted in a tens of billions spent on drugs by consumers, billions spent on “justice” against drug users and addicts that we turn into criminals, and hundreds of thousands of lives lost by murderous gangs in Mexico and South America.

Amendment 64 is just good sense. It’s sad that alcohol and drug use are so important to so many Coloradans, but it’s even more sad that so many Americans eat themselves to death, smoke themselves to death, drink themselves to death or shoot themselves to death. We may be the smartest species on the planet, but we do a lot of stupid things. Far more Americans suffer the ravages of a lifetime of sloth and overeating than drug use.

With all that in mind, it just makes sense to let Colorado residents smoking dope to do it legally.

But now, the state is going to ask voters to tack a 25 percent special sales tax on retail sales of pot. There’s state sales tax to be added. And Denver’s looking at adding 5 percent to 15 percent on top of that. Places like Aurora is considering banning pot shops or relegating them to warehouse districts. And guess who benefits from all that? Criminals. By pushing the price of legal pot too high, we turn customers right back to their current suppliers: illegal drug dealers.

Currently, an ounce of pot on the black market goes for about $180. There’s a website,, that offers consumers this information. By adding too many taxes on the current market value of “legal” pot, officials are pushing the price above the black market. Why go to Weeds R Us and pay more when a dealer is cheaper?

Researchers at Colorado State University in April revealed that they expect Colorado residents and tourists to purchase about $600 million of “legal” pot next year. Given what the state is asking voters to approve in taxes this fall, with no negotiation, here’s what needs to happen.

Since the state will be collecting the lion’s share of new taxes on this industry, they must pass through some of that cash to cities allowing for pot shops and needing help with regulation. It’s the cities that will suffer the manpower brunt of this new industry, but the state has overtaxed pot to begin with, leaving little levy room for municipalities. Even though it’s too late to back off the promise of pouring the first $40 million of new taxes into school construction, it’s not too late for the state to find out how to funnel some money to communities where pot is being grown and sold.

The CSU study showed that pot retailers now selling medical marijuana double their wholesale price. Even though there are considerable expenses in selling marijuana, there’s no doubt this is a high-margin business. The industry, which has no regulations on price, must police itself to keep prices low enough to keep the black market at bay. While competition should help control the price, greed and cartel behavior often have a way of manipulating that.

As to making these shops as unfriendly and unwelcome as possible, communities only risk enriching and promoting criminals and murderous thugs like those in Mexico. It may be unsavory to contribute to our Colorado drug lifestyle, but it’s much smarter than what we’ve been doing the past century.

Reach editor Dave Perry at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]


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Kat Bomgardner
Kat Bomgardner
9 years ago

Right on the mark, Dave Perry. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Gerard' Janéltzipák
9 years ago

Whether the tax rate would be high or not wouldn’t matter much either, CO isn’t going to get much revenue from the sale of 420…so the tax might as well be low enough to be friendly to consumers; keeping them away from the decadent drug black market.

I mean, if law makers are looking for ways to bring in revenue; they’d have better luck at supporting a Wall Street Sales Tax of at least 1%, especially a sales tax on credit default swaps. Then, CO would be SWAMPED with revenue…but obviously our law makers aren’t progressive enough for this, I see.

Or, perhaps, they’re not even true progressives? I don’t know, really.

Bruce Card
Bruce Card
9 years ago

Fine, but if a guy gives weed to a girl, they should cut his bag off (just kidding, kind-of). And while I am here please paste this in YouTube,,, “A vision of swords”. It is about,,, p o r n.