An advocacy organization registered in Delaware and backed by a Bahamas-based billionaire Forbes calls “the world’s richest 29-year-old” is going head-to-head with the Denver cannabis industry — and the mayor — through a proposed city ordinance that would increase Denver’s recreational marijuana tax by 13%.
Initiated Ordinance 300, which will appear on the 2021 ballot, proposes that “Denver retail marijuana sales tax be increased by $7 million” through a 1.5% tariff to fund “pandemic research” at the University of Colorado Denver.
Should a statewide ballot initiative that will also be put before voters in 2021, Proposition 119, pass along with Ordinance 300, Denver cannabis consumers will be paying nearly 25% more for their weed within the next three years. Denver residents currently pay a total of 26.41% in taxes on recreational cannabis: 11.41% to the city and 15% to the state.
The move has Colorado cannabis industry insiders wondering why Colorado, why CU Denver and why their sector.
“Ordinance 300 taxes Denver cannabis consumers to fund, and I’m putting this in big old air quotes, ‘future pandemic research,'” Marijuana Industry Group Executive Director Truman Bradley told Denver Business Journal. “I literally cannot think of a cause that’s going to achieve more attention globally than [pandemic research]. It makes no sense to ask Denver cannabis consumers to foot the bill for that.”
MIG, along with industry advocacy organization Colorado Leads, primarily expressed concern about the impact on cannabis buyers who consume for medical purposes but may not have the means for a medical card — something that requires an often expensive annual physical exam and fees paid to the state — or simply don’t want to be on an official list.
“This measure — funded by a rich, out-of-town carpetbagger — taxes people’s pain relief to pay for a random pandemic preparation program that has no accountability, no oversight, no specific solutions and no connection to the marijuana industry,” Chuck Smith, Colorado Leads board president and CEO of Denver-based cannabis giant BellRock Brands, told DBJ. “If, as the proponents contend, this program is so beneficial, why aren’t all Denver industries asked to pay their fair share?”