Where did all Colorado’s pot money go? The Post set out to answer that question

David Migoya

As Colorado started its fifth 12 months of legalized leisure marijuana in 2018, The Denver Post determined it was essential to let readers know concerning the state of the business as its fifth anniversary loomed, a big a part of which hinged on its monetary successes.

Editors on the paper determined it was a worthy plunge to unravel the morass of paperwork and paperwork that makes up the state’s system of divvying the tens of thousands and thousands of collected in marijuana taxes annually.

With a mantra of “Where’d all that tax money go?” we first started by digging by way of the number of layers that make up tax-spending in our state.

Over a four-month interval, we have been in a position to assess not solely the place greater than $270 million in tax revenues had been allotted final 12 months, but in addition drill deeply sufficient to study to whom these finally went and for what.

Along the best way, we decided there was a stream of income  omitted from the everyday recitation of annual collections – native gross sales and excise taxes that stayed within the locales the place it was collected.

By utilizing the state’s month-to-month experiences on income sharing – 10 p.c of the state’s gross sales tax was returned to the cities that collected it – we have been in a position to reverse-engineer the system to decide how a lot every locality had generated in total retail marijuana gross sales. From that quantity we might apply the native tax charges to calculate how a lot was being collected domestically.

We couldn’t determine for all cities – and the listing was just too lengthy to name each – due to state taxpayer privateness legal guidelines that prohibit releasing data that might establish a taxpayer. When a metropolis had just one marijuana store, it might be straightforward to understand how a lot the enterprise paid in taxes.

In all, native taxes have been about $80 million of funding.

My colleagues — Jon Murray, John Aguilar and Anna Staver — divvied the work and set about telling the tales behind the tax money.

As we narrowed the scope of our reporting, it grew to become clear that Colorado voters have been largely misinformed – both by intent of the message or ignorance in pondering – after they handed Amendment 64 in 2012 to legalize leisure marijuana.

That’s as a result of the modification clearly set objectives for less than the primary $40 million in excise taxes: It could be earmarked for varsity repairs and development. Nothing was deliberate for what got here after that quantity.

What was by no means determined, but voters presumed, was that all the tax money could be used for training.

Through an array of advanced calculations and maneuvers, state authorities determined what to do with the money collected past that preliminary $40 million, an quantity that’s now grown by greater than $240 million and is probably going to attain even larger.

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