Denver voters are faced with two initiatives, both of which would raise taxes on marijuana products. The first would impose an additional 1.5% tax on cannabis sales to be used for research into “advanced technologies to protect the public from the spread of pandemic pathogens, including at schools, businesses, and hospitals … [and] pandemic preparedness and recovery, including urban, economic, and school planning.” The second measure, Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress, would provide a $1,500 stipend to low- and middle-income families to facilitate school-aged children participating in after-school programs, tutoring, and summer learning activities.
Currently, Denver cannabis sales are taxed at 10.31 percent —the city’s standard 4.81 percent sales tax plus a special tax of 5.5 percent. The sales tax on adult-use cannabis products from Initiative 25 would gradually increase from 15 percent to 20 percent and would bring in an additional $138 million annually.
Supporters of Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress, the education expansion policy, emphasize its importance due to the exacerbating negative impact the coronavirus pandemic had on income-related learning gaps for students. Some cannabis advocates, marijuana industry stakeholders, and even the state’s largest teachers union, argue that the proposal detracts from existing social equity efforts.
Colorado is currently enjoying the benefits of a booming cannabis market. The state took in more than $500 million in marijuana sales during the first three months of 2021.