The Black Cannabis Equity Initiative recently met to discuss, among other things, Colorado ballot Proposition 119 — to be determined Election Day, Nov. 2 — which would increase taxes on recreational marijuana sales to fund after-school programs in communities that are routinely underserved.
That admittedly sounds good on the surface, but given the already high rate of taxation levied against the marijuana industry in Colorado, I'm against the proposal. Recreational marijuana in the state has already been hit with disproportionate taxes, and the tax burden from 119 would not be shared equally by other industries — like alcohol and tobacco. Pushing those tax rates higher would only bolster the illicit market, which is not the direction we want things to move.
Recreational marijuana is already being taxed to support educational projects. And if cannabis becomes too expensive and consumers choose the black market instead, the enormous amount of marijuana-related tax revenue going to the state would take a sizable hit. So maybe the answer isn't adding more taxes, but rather ensuring important programs are made a priority while better allocating taxes we are already collecting.
In addition, since this was a Black Cannabis Equity Initiative meeting, talk of equity within the industry was an overarching topic. And since I'm penning this piece on Indigenous People's Day (to be published later, but still, it's relevant) equity is weighing heavily on my mind.
We're talking about an industry that requires businesses to spend tens of thousands of dollars for certifications and licenses in a country that, through broken (and often racist) systems, has long stymied the growth of generational wealth by minority groups. Discussions of equity are vital to ensure diverse populations are able to access these entrepreneurial opportunities. It cannot be an afterthought as the market continues to boom in the state.
According to Steve Jackson, a cannabis business owner, one of the greatest barriers to the industry for people of color is access to capital. That means some cannabis entrepreneurs will have to rely on others to provide capital to get the business off the ground. Some of these entrepreneurs may lose control of their intellectual property and ownership. Luckily, we have the Colorado Cannabis Business Office (which also had a member in attendance at the meeting). The CCBO is tasked with, among other responsibilities, ensuring those types of predatory practices aren't the norm here. But that doesn't mean there isn't still work to be done.
Personally, I would like to thank John Bailey and the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative for inviting us to attend the online meeting, and I encourage others to get involved — for equity's sake.