Housekeeping and taxes
A few housekeeping items.
First, we want to welcome aboard a long-time Ouray County resident and familiar face to many. Peggy Kiniston has joined our team, replacing C.J. Olin as Account Manager.
C.J., who was with us for over three years, recently retired. She and her husband, Randy, plan to galavant around the countryside and do whatever retirees do. Since the concept is foreign to me, I told her I'll have to rely on her stories and pictures. First up for the dynamic duo, a trip to California and on up the Left Coast.
Can't wait for details.
Peggy comes to us after a brief intermission in the newspaper business. Ink has run in her veins since the mid-90s.
We're fortunate to have had C.J. with us for several years, and we're looking forward to working with Peggy, as I'm sure those familiar with her are excited to have her back.
Second, it's that time of year again when we run school pages, thanks to our valuable sponsors, the journalism teachers and, of course, those budding reporters and photographers in the classrooms. This year, we're sorry to say, there won't be a Demon Beat from Ridgway School. There weren't enough journalism students this year to accommodate a class.
The Trojan Tribune, produced by Ouray School students, is led by teacher John Kissingford.
And the last housekeeping item is for our summer or part-time neighbors who are slowly trickling out of the county back to winter homes and other obligations. Be sure to change your address with us. Use our online form, email any of us, call, stick a note under the door or in the box outside the office in Ouray.
The new grandstands at the fairgrounds got broken in with style this past weekend. Great crowds came out all weekend for the Ouray County Rodeo Association's five-day event. If there was a hiccup at any time during the event, it didn't show. OCRA did a fantastic job, and the new grandstands and fairgrounds showed like a prize bull. The entire board, including their president and one the most amazing organizers in the county, Erin Stadelman, deserve all our praise for showcasing the area's ranching heritage.
As the City of Ouray moves closer to putting the question of whether or not to approve retail sales of marijuana within city limits in front of voters, one of the main arguments in favor of legalizing the trade is the added tax dollars. However, as we've found is the case in Ridgway, when there are fewer than three retail outlets in a governmental subdivision, the state of Colorado won't segregate the tax revenue by city or county.
Thus, if you are voting for the tax impact created by selling marijuana, you may never know what that specific impact will be to your town or city.
The State of Colorado, which collects the retail marijuana tax, can give you tax revenue numbers for cities such as Boulder and Denver, and counties such as Garfield, Jefferson, Pitkin and even San Miguel.
According to the state, data derived from taxpayer returns must be combined in order to protect the confidentiality of individual taxpayers. The state will only release data for a local government when there are at least three taxpayers in a given category and none of them represents more than 80% of the total.
In June of this year, for instance, the state distributed $366,377 to Denver from the 2.9% retail marijuana sales tax, and an additional $1,064,140 from the 10% retail marijuana additional sales tax. That's just in one month!
Closer to home, San Miguel County received $9,295 and $27,410 in taxes in June, respectively.
But if you want Ouray County numbers, where there is only one retail marijuana outlet currently operating, you won't get it.
Ouray County is lumped in with Adams, Eagle, Gunnison, Lake, Larimer, Park, Routt and Sedgwick counties in sending in an aggregate $75,816 and $271,825 in retail marijuana taxes, respectively.
When the Town of Ridgway adds more retail marijuana outlets and/or the City of Ouray jumps on board, the county could have the minimum three retail outlets needed by the state to break out only Ouray County marijuana taxes in its reporting. However, voters in either Ridgway or Ouray will not know their share and can't judge the impact of their decision.
And, if the county approves retail sales, the tax revenue it receives likely will be combined among the county and the two municipalities.
On that note, in the case of the county it only makes sense to get a piece of the pie. The county has a distinct advantage: location, location, location. Colona would be a perfect pot stop for retail marijuana traffic coming into and making a U-turn back to Montrose, Delta and Grand Junction, municipalities which have yet to approve legalized retail marijuana sales. Colona would be an ideal spot to infuse the county with a much-needed revenue source.
And, as we're contemplating this newfound tax revenue source, consider the lawsuit filed in Colorado last month by marijuana advocates. It alleges the duty to pay state taxes on the sale of marijuana violates the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the complaint, the advocates make the case that being required to report taxes to the state violates the individual's right to avoid self-incrimination, it still being against federal law to sell marijuana.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
The goal of the advocacy group is to eliminate the high taxes and get rid of the huge disparity created between the price of the legal stuff and the black market stuff. A 15 percent state excise tax, coupled with a 10 percent sales tax and any additional tax assigned by a municipality or locale all drive the cost of the legal stuff way above that of the black market stuff.
Alan Todd is co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-325-2838.