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Colorado pot tax for schools hits record, exceeding 2014 total by May

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DENVER — A year after Colorado's marijuana tax for schools came in far short of its goal, the fund is setting records and has accrued more money in the first five months in 2015 than it did for all of 2014.

Recently released tax data showed the 15 percent excise tax for school construction hit $3.5 million in May, the most recent data available. That brings the 2015 total to $13.7 million, edging the $13.3 million it raised in all of 2014.

The jump is partly because there are more marijuana stores and partly because shops last year were given a one-time tax-exempt transfer of their medical plants to the recreational pot side, The Denver Post reported (http://dpo.st/1fFMKwV ).

"It sounds very encouraging," said state senator Pat Steadman, D-Denver.

"Voters wanted the school capital construction program to benefit, and despite some bumps in the road at the beginning, it looks like what was intended is coming to fruition."

There are three types of state taxes on recreational marijuana: the standard 2.9 percent sales tax, a 10 percent special marijuana sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana transfers.

The new pot tax data also showed that recreational marijuana sales in Colorado plateaued in spring 2015. Those retail sales hardly fluctuated between March and May, staying between $42.4 and $42.7 million, totaling $42.5 million in May.

May's medical marijuana sales in Colorado were at their highest since last October, totaling $32.4 million.

No matter what the excise tax produces this year, Colorado schools will get the promised infusion of $40 million. That's because state lawmakers changed the funding earlier this year when they agreed to send voters a revised pot-tax plan to comply with constitutional spending restrictions.

Colorado voters in November will determine the fate of Proposition BB, which will either refund tens of millions of dollars in marijuana taxes from the recently ended fiscal year to businesses and citizens or allow the state to keep the money. The state has earmarked the money for school construction, law enforcement, substance abuse, prevention and youth services. If voters reject Prop BB, nearly $60 million will be refunded to marijuana businesses and pot-shopping customers via a sales tax rate reduction on recreational cannabis.


Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

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