The backers of Amendment 64 have announced a news conference for Friday morning to denounce what they are saying is an effort by an anti-legalization group's effort to repeal Colorado's recreational marijuana legislation.
Mason Tvert, the former co-director of the campaign behind Amendment 64 and current communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project, states that secretly "numerous Colorado state lawmakers are considering supporting a strategic maneuver to repeal Amendment 64 floated by anti-marijuana group Smart Colorado."
Tvert says that some lawmakers are considering putting this secret measure before Colorado voters on the November 2013 state ballot if voters don't pass a separate measure on marijuana taxes also on this November's ballot.
"We are surprised that legislators are even taking this proposal seriously," said Tvert in a statement. "Placing such a measure on the ballot would amount to extortion of the voters. They will be told that they must vote for whatever taxes the legislators choose in order to prevent the repeal of the constitutional amendment they just approved."
Any repeal effort of Amendment 64 would be a stark challenge for lawmakers since the measure is part of the state constitution and a repeal of it would have to also be constitutional. A two-thirds majority of the House and Senate is needed to place a repeal amendment on the ballot and with less than two weeks left on the legislative calendar this year, it could be nearly impossible to drum up enough support for a repeal.
Tvert says that the the two ballot questions -- the one to establish the new tax rate and the one to repeal A64 if the tax measure fails -- would both be included in the same resolution.
No state lawmakers have spoken publicly about a repeal effort and Smart Colorado could not be reached for comment.
The House Finance Committee passed House Bill 1318 7-6 on Thursday which seeks a 15 percent excise tax and a 15 percent special sales tax on all marijuana purchases in the state.
Colorado voters would be asked to weigh in on the two additional 15 percent tax proposals and The Associated Press's Kristen Wyatt reported that some state lawmakers fear that voters will reject one or both of the tax proposals leaving the state stuck with the tab for enforcing pot sales but without the budget to pay for it.
Amendment 64 states that the first $40 million raised from the 15 percent excise tax would go to to school construction. And although many voters who supported A64 did so because it could raise money for schools, lawmakers are concerned that even fans of that excise tax rate and the use of its revenue could be turned off by a total tax rate that would exceed 30 percent.
Lawmakers' worries about marijuana tax and regulatory bills are understandable. Although HB-1318 passed, it did so narrowly in committee. The same is also true for HB-1317 which lays out the regulatory structure for recreational marijuana sales in the state has barely cleared two committee hearings on 6-5 votes.
However the lawmakers' fears may be unfounded. According to a new poll released today from Public Policy Polling that was provided to The Huffington Post by backers of Amendment 64, 77 percent of Colorado voters would support a 10 percent sales tax in addition to the 15 percent excise tax with only 18 percent saying they were opposed. The survey of 900 registered Colorado voters was conducted by Public Policy Polling from April 15-16.
The 15 percent special sales tax and 15 percent excise tax that is currently being debated by Colorado lawmakers would yield $90.9 million according to a new study by the Colorado Futures Center. In a statement, Amendment 64 backers said that state officials have told them that the cost to the state to enforce recreational marijuana regulations would not be greater than $30 million. Meaning that if lawmakers are really concerned about the current high proposed tax rates (15 percent sales, 15 percent excise) they could feasibly lower the sales tax to 10 percent which would still yield more than $60 million.
"If legislators are concerned that a special sales tax will not pass, they should consider reducing the tax rate to 10% instead of embracing the nuclear option proposed by anti-marijuana advocates," Tvert said in a Friday morning statement.
Smart Colorado, a vocal opponent to marijuana legalization in Colorado, is described on their website:
We are citizens from every county and corner of the state. We have banded together as individuals and organizations to form this nonpartisan, broad-based alliance dedicated to a responsible and reasonable approach to marijuana policy.
Using reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety, we advocate for smart policies that decrease marijuana use and its harm to our people, communities, businesses and healthcare system.
Smart Colorado puts the public’s interests ahead of the interests of the marijuana industry.
Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 last November making the limited sale, possession and growing of marijuana for recreational purposes legal for adults 21 and over. A64 states that adults can possess up to an ounce of pot, can grow as many as six marijuana plants at home (with only three flowering at any given time), but that home-grown marijuana can only be for personal use and cannot be sold, however, adults can gift one another up to an ounce of pot.
Proponents for Amendment 64 plan to hold their news conference at 11:30 a.m. on the west steps of the State Capitol Building.