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Cannabiz: Marijuana, taxation and TABOR

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Tax turmoil

In a pre-vote look at Amendment 64 ("After I'm 64," News, Oct. 31), Colorado Springs Rep. Mark Waller, a Republican, expressed doubts about the taxation portion of the proposed law. Now, in a phone interview, incoming Democratic Senate President John Morse joins him.

"I personally would love to see marijuana legalized; I agree it's stupid to criminalize it," begins Morse, a former police chief, to explain where he's coming from. "But I also believe, as an American, in the rule of law. There are lots of laws I think are stupid, but I do my very best to comply with every single one, regardless of my personal opinion about it, until it's no longer law."

And there could be trouble in complying with a portion of the amendment that says, "The General Assembly shall enact an excise tax to be levied upon marijuana ..."

Morse first wonders if, just by debating the merits of marijuana taxation and regulation, he might be seen by the federal government as conspiring to commit racketeering.

Asked if that might already have happened with the Legislature's passage of medical-marijuana related bills, he says maybe. But he continues: "You know, when you're talking about medical marijuana, and you're talking about medicinal purposes, and all that, I mean, that's one thing to say, 'What kind of risk am I willing to take on the Senate floor to alleviate human suffering?' That's a different question than, 'What kind of risk am I willing to take to help engage in what is a criminal enterprise?'"

There's also doubt about whether a tax vote is needed at all, or whether the amendment's wording supersedes TABOR requirements; the original question of whether lawmakers can be compelled to add a ballot question; and whether Morse would have enough Democratic and Republican support for the needed two-thirds majority to place something on the ballot at all. It's not even known who would be culpable, or what would happen, if the state's voters reject the tax.

Basically, the Senate president says, "This is a lose-lose proposition, where we're gonna try to find a way to figure it out, but there isn't a way. And I think millions of dollars are gonna be spent in the process on legal fees."

North-side support

In the vein of our reporting here, here are a few election-related numbers:

• The obvious cannabis-friendly bastions — Manitou Springs, and the neighborhoods around West Colorado Avenue — voted passage of Amendment 64 by roughly 68 and 66 percent, respectively.

• Outside of that, the largest zone of support came from Precinct 154, near Academy Boulevard and Austin Bluffs Parkway; there, some 61 percent of people voted to legalize.

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