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Seeds: Cash crop

Posted: Tuesday, Mar 12th, 2013

In a struggling economy, $32 million in new revenue would surely help, but someoneís going to have to sell some marijuana.

Since Amendment 64 passed last year, several Valley government bodies have passed resolutions denying the retail sale of the plant. Seems a bit undemocratic that boards of so few can immediately strike a decision the voters clearly wanted. What separates this economic opportunity from oil and gas drilling or a liquor store license? Why is the Valley so afraid to take a progressive step that could define responsible marijuana use not only in Colorado, but the nation and beyond?

Amendment 64 comes with a side of uncertainty, but not without a model. The amendment states marijuana retail sales will follow the path of alcohol, which is definitely accepted and celebrated. Seems simple enough, but recent headlines reveal those at the top are struggling to find a way to tax the plant. The struggle is laughable because if there is any country that knows how to tax a commodity, itís America. It is also frustrating because the amendment doesnít mince words: ď...the general assembly shall enact an excise tax to be levied upon marijuana sold or otherwise transferred by a marijuana cultivation facility to a marijuana product manufacturing facility or to a retail marijuana store at a rate not to exceed fifteen percent prior to January 1, 2017 and at a rate to be determined by the general assembly thereafter, and shall direct the department to establish procedures for the collection of all taxes levied.Ē

Seems itís all been figured out. The only new word in these sentences is marijuana. Itís the same old wheel.

If, by chance, it hasnít or it truly isnít, then the legislators should turn to the streets where all the green will remain if marijuana isnít allowed a place in the retail market. Ask any underground dealer how to mark up an ounce for profit and they can provide the economic model that has ruled the streets for years. They can tell you how much simpler legalization will make for them to ďgiftĒ a bag weed and, in turn, receive a cash ďgiftĒ for their accounts and their accounts alone.

There has been a bit more figuring that brings marijuana and its potential economic impacts close to home. Itís anticipated marijuana retail sales will generate $24 million in annual state revenue before 2017 and more than $50 million after for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) capital construction program, which is responsible for the new Valley schools. The programís future is up in the air and there are still local districts without new schools that are in dire need. These buildings are more than walls and a roof, but the opportunity to provide our children with the technologies and the resources required for a successful future. They also offer a sense of pride that carries over into the classroom, onto the playing field and, hopefully, throughout the rest of a studentís life. BEST is valuable, and marijuana retail sales can help ensure our students have a chance to compete with whoever comes along.

Thereís also the notion of a marijuana tourism industry. According to an Associated Press report, ďThe Colorado counties where big ski resorts are located seem to have made up their minds. The marijuana measure passed by overwhelming margins, with more support than in less visited areas.Ē

Wolf Creek might have the most snow, but it might not trump the combination of the slopes and a spliff offered elsewhere in the state. The South Fork Town Board took advantage of the 16th section of the amendment and moved to prohibit the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities and marijuana stores in January, while approving yet another liquor license during the same meeting.

In addition, the amendment is anticipated to save local and state law enforcement officials more than $12 million in the first year of operation; create more than 350 new jobs; initially result in $60 million annually in combined revenue and savings for state and local governments in Colorado, which could double to more than $100 million within the first five years of implementation.

Those are pretty big numbers to overlook because of erroneous Reefer Madness memories. The positive enjoyment of various social, political and economic rights and privileges is liberty and the American way. Whether or not marijuana retail sales are banned in the Valley, the plant and its user arenít going to go away. It has been a thriving underground habit for decades and a long overlooked economic opportunity. Now it is a legal option like having a beer, going to a church of oneís choosing or taking a prescription pill to numb the pain.

Ben Harper said it the best so many years ago, ďMy choice is what I choose to do and if Iím causing no harm it shouldnít bother you. Your choice is who you choose to be and if youíre causing no harm then youíre all right with me... So before you knock it, try it first. Youíll see itís a blessing and itís not a curse.Ē

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