Colorado Employers Review Drug Policies Since Marijuana’s Legalization

Getting High and Hired Still Up To Employers

Summer in Aspen not only means warm weather and crowds, it also means businesses are hiring. The resort has a seasonal economy and, some companies are reviewing their drug and alcohol policies now that marijuana is legal in Colorado. It’s causing some confusion for employers and raising questions for human resources departments. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Colorado employers drug policies

Pot in the workplace still up in the air.

Since marijuana became legal for adults in Colorado, Alicia Miller has been getting a lot of questions from employees at Aspen Valley Hospital.

“They’re kind of, I don’t want to say hyper-sensitive, but they’re very sensitive to the changes in the community and in the state. People have asked more questions, which is a good thing because it’s good to know how to notify people and what to look for,” she says.

Miller is the Human Resources Director and she says the hospital’s policy regarding drug use has not changed because marijuana is still illegal under federal law. The hospital’s 400 employees, including the nurses, administrators and cafeteria workers, get a drug screening when they’re hired and the hospital will order a test “for cause.”

“So, if somebody appeared impaired or showed any type of impairment like red eyes or judgement issues, or if we had concerns of any type,” says Miller.

Now hospitals in Colorado are considering implementing random drug testing. AVH doesn’t plan to follow suit. Kimberlie Ryan is a Denver attorney specializing in employment and civil rights.

“I’ve really seen probably three different types of employers, or types of responses,” she says.

Many of her clients have been fired for violating drug policies at their jobs. Even now that marijuana is legal, she says a number of employers are keeping the same policy. Most are in a gray area, exploring what’s best for their company and workers. Others are strengthening their policies.

“So, some of those are entrenching and it’s almost like a backlash – I’m noticing those people are becoming more inflamed about it and maybe more aggressive with their employees.”

She says Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, carries more protections for employees than the medical marijuana measure Amendment 20, which passed in 2000. As a general rule, Ryan recommends workers not test their employer’s policy.

“I don’t think that it’s really necessarily safe for someone to say, ‘okay, I’m going to use it on Friday knowing that my employer has a very strict, zero tolerance policy,’ because really at this point, while I believe that the law recognizes their constitutional rights to do this, they would still have to establish that by filing a lawsuit against their employer when they get fired.”

One large, statewide employer – the Colorado Department of Transportation – is responding to legal pot by tweaking its employee drug and alcohol policy. Nancy Shanks is a CDOT Communications Manager.

“There might be some minor changes in language but the core policy fundamentals will stay the same,” she says.

So-called “safety sensitive” CDOT employees like snowplow drivers are subject to a host of drug screenings, including pre-employment, random, post-accident and possibly, follow-up tests. Desk job workers face reasonable suspicion testing. Shanks says the new law brings up new questions.

“It’s like, what constitutes reasonable suspicion? What does that look like now for someone who is impaired by marijuana versus someone who is drunk. I think it’s just new territory for many employers.”

The Aspen Skiing Company, is one of the Valley’s biggest employers, with 600 year-round workers and 150 summer employees. Spokesman Jeff Hanle says the company’s drug and alcohol policy hasn’t changed. There are random pre-employment drug tests and post-accident screenings.

“Really what it’s about is looking for impairment on the job. So, we have and still do use the U.S. Department of Transportation thresholds for impairment and that’s across the board for alcohol, marijuana or any drug you have.”

Last year a Colorado Appeals Court ruled employees who use medical marijuana can be fired even if they’re not impaired on the job. Now the State Supreme Court is reviewing the case called Coates versus Dish Network. Their decision, which could set a precedent, is expected later this year.

Source: http://aspenpublicradio.org/post/colorado-employers-review-drug-policies-light-marijuanas-legalization

Posted in Colorado Law | Tagged | Leave a comment

Taxes From Marijuana Sales in Denver Not Wasted

Millions Of Dollars In Extra Tax Revenue

As the entire nation sits back and watches the legalization situation in Colorado,  millions of dollars of tax revenue generated by recreational marijuana sales continue to roll in to the state. From the single month of January 2014, the city of Denver is expected to receive 3.5 million in tax money generated from recreational and medicinal marijuana sales that will not be wasted.  Many are speculating on what the city will choose to do with the several millions of dollars in extra tax revenue created by the marijuana industry in just a few months.

Taxes From Marijuana Revenue Colorado

Denver cashing in on taxes from marijuana sales.

When Colorado passed Amendment 64 in November of 2012, it was not known what type of taxes would be imposed on the sale of recreational marijuana. Voters in the state recently passed a 15 percent excise tax on top of regular sales taxes. Needless to say, when someone purchases marijuana in Colorado the normal price can skyrocket as high as 22 percent. That is not easy on the wallet, but obviously consumers in Colorado are willing to pay these taxes without second thought. After all, they are the ones who enacted the high taxes to begin with.

By the end of 2014, the city of Denver could see upwards of forty million dollars in tax revenue generated by the sales of recreational marijuana, so it is no wonder that folks are concerned about their hard earned  money being wasted. There is flat out fear that abundance of tax revenue could be wasted on measures such as increasing the incarceration rates or banning large sized sodas like New York City did earlier this year. When Coloradans voted yes on Amendment 64 it was understood by all that the first forty million dollars of tax revenue generated by the state in recreational marijuana sales would go school construction. Do the math. That first forty million has come and gone extremely quickly. Rest assured, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has responsible plans for spending the excess of tax revenue.

One area that is in need of immediate, unwavering attention is the ongoing regulation of the marijuana industry in Colorado. In a proposal last week, Denver Mayor Hancock suggested that this is where over half of the extra tax money will go. Just because it is legalized, does not mean that the market for marijuana sales is now an entrepreneurial free-for-all that wastes Denver tax dollars.  Funds reserved for regulating recreational marijuana sales would go towards hiring administration for the marijuana industry such as tax auditors, fire safety experts and health inspectors to oversee the manufacture of edible marijuana.

Legalization of recreational marijuana sales also means hiring more law enforcement agents and forensic scientists. In light of the recent ethical problems that the Denver Police Department has had, using a quarter of this generated tax money to hire more qualified law enforcement officials would be highly revered by Denver citizens and not considered to be wasteful. The remaining quarter of the tax revenue budget is reserved for education, but there is some debate over what areas of education are most in need of funding. Officials want to make sure that money put in to education finance is effective. “We don’t want to just add money to education and hope there is an impact,” said City Budget Manager Brendan Hanlon. Youth marijuana prevention is one of the most important efforts for the state. The last thing Colorado wants is for legalization to be associated with increased usage among youth, or any age group for that matter.

Read more at http://guardianlv.com/2014/06/taxes-generated-from-marijuana-sales-in-denver-will-not-be-wasted/#eYZsLtrLH4bJJ4LB.99

Posted in Economic Development, Politicians, Taxes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Hershey Sues Over Marijuana Candy In Colorado

Company Paranoid About Pot Parody

The Hershey Co., the giant candy maker, this week filed a federal lawsuit against a Colorado company selling marijuana-infused chocolates with names too similar for comfort to its own products. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver against TinctureBelle LLC and an affiliated company, TinctureBelle Marijuanka LLC,  in Pueblo West.

pot candy in Colorado

Hershey suing over pot parody of candy in Colorado.

Hershey alleges trademark infringement and for dilution of its trademark. Specifically, Hershey claims TinctureBelle is selling knock-offs of its Reese’s, Health, Almond Joy and York trademarks.

Hershey wants an injunction against the sale of TinctureBell’s products — Hashees, which has a look similar to the packaging on Reese’s peanut butter cups; Ganja Joy, Hasheath and Dabby Patty, which has a resemblance to a York peppermint patty.

The owner of TinctureBelle could not be reached for comment Friday. The company’s website was offline as well.

Hershey is also asking for compensatory and punitive damages. The candy maker alleged in its lawsuit TinctureBelle was using the knock-offs to increase the sale of its marijuana-infused candy, “draw additional attention to their products, confuse consumers as to the source of their products, call to consumers’ minds Hershey’s famous and beloved brands, and otherwise to trade on the goodwill of Hershey and its brands.”

The lawsuit also was filed by a Wheat Ridge-based Hershey subsidiary, Hershey Chocolate & Confectionery Corp. Carl Manthei, of the Ollilia Law Group LLC in Boulder, is representing Hershey in the lawsuit. His co-counsels are Paul Llewellyn and Kyle Gooch of the New York firm Kaye Scholher LLP.

Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2014/06/06/hershey-sues-over-marijuana-candy-in-colorado.html?ana=e_du_pap&s=article_du&ed=2014-06-06&u=on2EocHhZoHAo8c3hX2y9/uTmtD&t=1402093224

Posted in Economic Development, Retailers | Leave a comment

NORML Opens Colorado Office

Marijuana Advocates Paving Ways For Best Practices 

Another indication of Colorado’s importance in the cannabis-reform movement: Today, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, better known as NORML, opened a satellite office in Denver.

We spoke to NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre about the reasons NORML wanted to have a permanent base of operations in Colorado. “It works on a lot of different levels,” St. Pierre says of the new operation, located at 3888 East Mexico Avenue in what he jokingly refers to as the “Cannabis Commerce Building” due to tenants that include WeedMaps, The Clinic and Steep Hill Halent laboratory. First among them, he believes, is the opportunity for staffers to “represent consumer interests.

NORML moves to Colorado

NORML opens a Colorado office.

“We’re already part of the current governor’s working group,” he points out. “The group includes people from industry, people from law enforcement, people from the health-care community — so why not people representing consumers? Consumers make up an important part of the discussion, and NORML is one of the few organizations out there that says, ‘Yeah, we’re marijuana consumers.’”

As such, St. Pierre continues, NORML has taken the opportunity to weigh in on a slew of cannabis-related topics, including “taxation, over-regulation, access and flash points like drug testing of employees, DUID laws and making sure child-protective services doesn’t immediately take children out of homes just because cannabis is present.”

In the meantime, he looks forward to more engagement on the question of where and when a person can consume.

“I don’t think the model of people buying cannabis but only being able to use it in a totally private space is sustainable,” he allows. “We envision having the kind of place where people can use cannabis in a recreational setting that looks very similar to what we use for alcohol — where there’s implied consent, so that if you go into one of these establishments, you know what you’re getting into.”

St. Pierre feels that what he refers to as “the Amsterdam model” has “a lot of attraction to a consumer — particularly someone like me, who’s a tourist in Denver. After I’ve purchased legal cannabis, I can’t legally use it in my hotel room, I can’t use it walking down the road, I can’t use it in an automobile. So where can I use it? This is a totally dysfunctional system, and even though some people think establishing places where people can consume encourages more use, I don’t think it does. It just says adults want to use cannabis legally in a social, quasi-public setting.”

Additionally, St. Pierre feels NORML “is in the best position to educate the public about responsible use. I’m not against some of the public-service announcements about cannabisI’ve seen here — I think they’re reasonably practical — but the government doesn’t hold a lot of sway on cannabis consumers. And we can reach people because we have credibility on this subject.”

Additionally, St. Pierre sees it as important to fight against legalization backlash — a phenomenon fueled in part by national media outlets looking for a new angle on the story (a weekend piece in the New York Times looked at the “downside of a legal high”), as well as anti-legalization groups such as Project SAM.

“To use a military term, we want to hold the ground,” St. Pierre says. He doubts that Project SAM and its ilk “are going to be very successful in moving America back to marijuana prohibition. But they want to use any missteps, any hysterical or sensationalistic things that might happen here or, soon, in Washington, to try to make their case nationally that prohibition should be kept in place for decades to come. I don’t think they can make much of an argument, but we want to make sure we hold the ground and build on it.”

To that end, NORML is teaming up with Oaksterdam University, based in Oakland, to present cannabis courses at its new headquarters with an eye toward better informing people about marijuana; he would like to see such offerings available by the fall. “And we’re also setting up a NORML business network so that we can work with the industry to try to get them to make sure they’re putting out the safest possible products: well-labeled, well-tested, in proper dosages.”

One area of concern cited by St. Pierre involves some of the CBD oils flooding the market. The attention garnered by parents moving to Colorado in order to gain access to the treatment, which has had great success in improving the conditions of children with seizure conditions, has inspired entrepreneurs selling supposedly similar products online. But St. Pierre sees as many risks as benefits in this development.

“Nobody knows what’s in these products or where they come from,” he says, “but people are paying top dollar for them — thousands of dollars for ten grams — and using them for what they hope are health purposes. So we’d like to work with some of the labs, which we hope we can get legally cleared to do, so that we can put out a report in the next six months on what is known about these CBD oils.”

At the same time, St. Pierre says the new office is looking to support policy makers to NORML’s liking with more than just praise, The organization has established its own political action committee, NORML PAC, which “permits us to provide campaign contributions to office holders and candidates for public office who support NORML-friendly public policy and legislation,” according to its website. And he says there’s no shortage of politicians here who would be game to accept such funds.

“The last time I was in town, a candidate for sheriff took me aside and said, ‘Could I get some NORML PAC money?’” St. Pierre recalls. “And I’ve met dozens of other people — aspiring politicians and those already in state and federal government — who’ve been interested. So we feel Colorado is a place where the NORML PAC could be extraordinarily effective.”

With Washington state having passed its own cannabis-legalization measure in 2012, NORML would like to open a beachhead in Seattle, too. But until that happens, he sees the Colorado office as a great first step — one that will allow NORML to “be on the ground to see how things are really working. And to help them work better.”

Source: http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2014/06/marijuana_norml_colorado_office.php?page=2

Posted in Economic Development, Investment | Tagged | Leave a comment

Alzheimer’s Prevention Starts With Marijuana

Active Ingredient Prevents Protein Plaque Formation In Brain

A paper published by the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests that the chemical compounds in marijuana likely prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and age-related dementia.

Chronic brain inflammation, oxidative stress, and intra-cellular dysfunction are the primary reasons why people develop these debilitating neurological diseases. The study found that both THC and CBD (the primary chemical compounds found in marijuana) positively affect nerve cell function in consumers, significantly reducing these harmful neurological conditions.

marijuana prevents Alzheimer's

Can marijuana prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

THC and CBD (called cannabinoids) tap into a primal, chemical signaling system in cells called “the endocannabinoid system.” The paper shows cannabinoids dampen inflammation, protect cells from oxidative damage, and promote cell health on a number of levels.

This paper echoes claims made in January by Gary Wenk, professor of neuroscience, immunology, and medical genetics at Ohio State University, that “if you do anything, such as smoke a bunch of marijuana in your 20s and 30s, you may wipe out all of the inflammation in your brain and then things start over again. And you simply die of old age before inflammation becomes an issue for you.”

The implications of marijuana’s medicinal effects on our brains are monumental, from not just a health perspective, but a financial one as well, for more than five million Americans with Alzheimer’s.

One in three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation, costing the country about $203 billion in 2013.

Source: http://www.thedailychronic.net/2014/32224/alzheimers-prevention-starts-with-marijuana-according-to-british-journal/

Posted in Disease Management, Medicinal Uses | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Banks Still Can’t Touch Colorado’s New Cookie Jar

Caught in The Intersection Of State, Federal Banking Law

A late bill to create co-ops to finance the marijuana industry has come back from a near-death experience. House Bill 1398 got off to a strong start Thursday in the House Business Committee, only to get gutted late that evening in the House Finance Committee before House Appropriations restored the original version Friday morning and sent the measure to a vote on the House floor.

marijuana banking laws Colorado

Marijuana sales in Colorado are rising, but banks can only watch.

The bill puts a twist on the credit-union model by creating cannabis credit co-ops for licensed pot businesses and their affiliates who are currently blocked from the traditional banking system because of federal prohibitions on marijuana.

The proposal could allow state-licensed marijuana businesses to create a financial co-op, sort of an uninsured credit union. The measure was introduced late Wednesday and cleared a House committee on Thursday. But a few hours later, another House committee gutted the plan by amending the bill to say that Colorado will continue studying the problem of marijuana businesses having a hard time accessing banking services. Lawmakers from both parties expressed reservations about whether the financial-services plan would work.

The measure will allow state-licensed marijuana businesses to create a financial co-op, sort of an uninsured credit union. The U.S. Federal Reserve would still have to grant permission for the co-ops to provide banking services like checking and credit.

Sponsors acknowledged the plan could move the marijuana industry away from its cash-only roots without running afoul of federal law. Colorado has struggled for years to find ways to help its pot industry access banks.

Source; http://gazette.com/bill-to-give-colorado-marijuana-industry-access-to-bank-like-services-gets-second-chance/article/1519332

Posted in Colorado Law, Economic Development, U.S. Law | Tagged | Leave a comment

Most Colorado Voters Positive About Marijuana Legalization

Many Voters Unaccounted For Since January

The majority of Colorado voters believe that legalizing cannabis has been “good” for the state and 54 percent say they support the new laws regulating the plant’s retail production and sale, according to the results of a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

marijuana Colorado law

Marijuana sales in Colorado are rising.

Fifty-five percent of voters approved Amendment 64 in November 2012, which allows for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis by those age 21 and older. Separate provisions in the measure also allow for the state-licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products. Retail cannabis sales began on January 1 of this year.

Other results released by the Quinnipiac University poll include:

49 percent of voters admit they’ve tried marijuana, but only 15 percent admit using it since it became legal January 1;

Driving has not become more dangerous because of legalized marijuana, voters say 54 – 39 percent;

Legalized marijuana will save the state and taxpayers a significant amount of money, voters say 53 – 41 percent;

Legalized marijuana will have a positive impact on the state’s criminal justice system, voters say 50 – 40 percent;

Legalized marijuana “increases personal freedoms in a positive way,” voters say 53 – 44 percent;

Legalized marijuana has not “eroded the moral fiber” of people in Colorado, voters say 67 – 30 percent.

A strong majority of Democrats (69 percent) and Independents (56 percent), but not Republicans (28 percent) said that the passage of marijuana legalization has been good for the state.

Source: http://blog.norml.org/2014/04/28/poll-majority-of-colorado-voters-positive-about-states-experience-with-legalization/#sthash.mBt7iWDB.dpuf

Posted in Colorado Law, Politicians | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Colorado Symphony Scores With New Marijuana Law

Concert Series Sponsored By Bud

The cultural revolution that is making marijuana part of everyday Colorado life conquers another established front Tuesday as the Colorado Symphony Orchestra announces a series of performances sponsored by the cannabis industry.

Colorado Symphony marijuana sponsors

Colorado Symphony sponsored by “Bud.”

The concerts, organized by pro-pot promoter Edible Events, will start May 23 with three bring-your-own marijuana events at the Space Gallery in Denver’s Santa Fe arts district and culminate with a large, outdoor performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Sept. 13. They are being billed as fundraisers for the CSO, which will curate a themed program of classical music for each show.

While acknowledging that the arrangement is unusual, even ground-breaking, CSO executive director Jerry Kern said the concerts will help the orchestra reach beyond its conservative, fine arts demographic while raising money for an organization that has struggled financially in recent years.

“We see ourselves as connecting classical music with all of Colorado,” said Kern. “Part of our goal is to bring in a younger audience and a more diverse audience, and I would suggest that the patrons of the cannabis industry are both younger and more diverse than the patrons of the symphony orchestra.”

Edible Events, known for its monthly series of upscale music-and-marijuana happenings, has already lined up key sponsors who see the concerts as an opportunity to “brand their brand with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and also give back to the arts,” according to owner Jane West.

Ideal 420 Soils, a New Hampshire-based business that manufactures cultivation supplies, is the lead sponsor for the Space Gallery shows along with two dispensaries, The Farm and Gaia Plant-Based Medicine. Those events will feature small ensembles of CSO musicians, along with gourmet food and wine and beer, for $75 a person. The gallery will have a smoking lounge on its enclosed patio, and the shows are open to those 21 and older.

Sponsors and programming for the Red Rocks date have yet to be lined up, though the concert is likely to feature the full orchestra and a plaza where sponsors can show off wares and offer education about anything from consumption to child-resistant packaging. “Every one has to have an educational element. It can’t just be ‘this is my product,’ ” said West.

The connection between classical music and marijuana culture is surprising on its surface. For three centuries, orchestra concerts have largely been formal affairs demanding a strict set of behaviors: No talking, no eating, unwavering attention. Pot users, true or not, are known for a more casual approach to consuming art.

But the partnership may be logical for the CSO in particular, which has worked hard in recent years to present a more democratic lineup. It still has its Beethoven and Brahms concerts, where cellists dress in tuxedos and tradition rules, but it has been playing more contemporary music and collaborating on concerts with pop acts, such as the jam band Guster, singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov and the art-rock ensemble DeVotchKa at Red Rocks.

Orchestra musicians are already set to play Red Rocks shows Aug. 8 and 9 with Pretty Lights, a.k.a. Derek Vincent Smith, one of the biggest acts in electronic dance music, a genre widely associated with marijuana and harder substances like Ecstasy.

As trumpet player Justin Bartels points out, the musicians have already smelled the waft of marijuana smoke at shows, and playing before mind-altered audiences won’t be shocking.

“Denver is a different kind of city, and you have to program your orchestra for the community you’re in,” he said.

Kern, who led the orchestra back from near collapse two seasons ago, also sees the event as a way of connecting his organization to new benefactors who can help the orchestra thrive in difficult times.

“We see our future as being very dependent on our relationships in the corporate community,” he said. “And this is a legal business in our state.”

Source: Colorado Symphony, cannabis industry, find harmony with concert series – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/entertainment/ci_25656494/colorado-symphony-cannabis-industry-find-harmony-concert-series#ixzz30J97pROX 

Posted in Economic Development, Entertainment | Tagged | Leave a comment

Colorado Might Seal Files On Past Pot Convictions

State Blazing Trails On New Issues 

Marijuana convictions that predate current Colorado law could be sealed under a bipartisan proposal being floated inside the Capitol — a move, say some lawmakers and marijuana advocates, that could potentially impact thousands of Coloradans.

The proposal, sponsored by Sens. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, and Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, allows anyone convicted of a marijuana offense that would now be legal under Amendment 64 to have their records sealed. Also, a draft of the bill says that a person convicted of “any other marijuana offense” beyond the scope of Amendment 64 would also be allowed to file a petition with a district attorney to have their record sealed. If the district attorney does not object, the court would then be required to seal the conviction record, according to a draft of the proposal.

Colorado marijuana convictions

Colorado’s new marijuana industry is rewriting the rules and laws–past and present.

Amendment 64 went into effect in December 2012 and allows for the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for Coloradans age 21 and over. Moreover, it allows for adults to grow and cultivate their own marijuana.

“There are tens of thousands of people with previous cannabis offenses that hurt them from getting things like loans, housing and employment,” said Jason Warf, a marijuana advocate and director of Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council.

Groups like the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council and the attorney general’s office on Friday offered reservations about the possible legislation.

“It creates a horrible precedent by retrofitting criminal sanctions for past conduct every time a new law is changed or passed,” Carolyn Tyler, a spokeswoman for the AG’s office, said in an e-mail.

In March, Colorado’s Court of Appeals threw out a woman’s 2011 convictions for marijuana offenses that are now legal. The woman was appealing her convictions for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana and possessing marijuana concentrate, among other charges. At the time, the court said its decision applies only to people who were in the midst of an appeal on the effective date of Amendment 64.

Prior to Amendment 64, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana was a petty offense in Colorado, and state law specified conviction for the offense “shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100.”

From January through November 2012, about 4,800 people over 21 years old were charged with petty possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana, according to a Denver Post analysis of court data for every county except Denver. Only about 900 of those charges resulted in some type of finding of guilt.

“This falls in line with the will of the voters, who by a wide margin, passed Amendment 64,” said Ulibarri, who Friday noted the bill is still receiving edits.

Source: In Colorado, law being explored would seal past marijuana convictions – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25639091/colorado-law-being-explored-would-seal-past-marijuana#ixzz3016oYMHg

Posted in Colorado Law | Tagged | Leave a comment

Colorado’s Marijuana Industry Seeks Tax Reform

Marijuana Stores, Buyers Paying High Taxes

For many businesses, deductions on things like labor and rent help keep tax bills low. But that’s not the case for marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized medical or recreational use.

marijuana taxes Colorado high

High marijuana taxes in Colorado target for reform.

It’s frustrating for business owners like Erica Freeman, who runs Choice Organics near Fort Collins, Colo. She’s marking a big milestone this month. After voters legalized recreational pot in the state, Freeman spent thousands opening a new shop right next to her medical dispensary.

“…a whole separate video surveillance and security systems—and all of those kinds of things,” she says.

Freeman and many other licensed marijuana business owners file taxes. But because of an Internal Revenue Service code known as 280E—originally written for illegal drug traffickers—they can’t write off retail expenses associated with the business.

“I mean, all of these things are necessary for the front of the house, and therefore it’s really not eligible to be written off,” she says.

Recent rulings from tax court have allowed businesses to write off costs associated with growing marijuana. But the income tax rate for pot shops in Colorado can be as high as 70 percent. That’s according to Jim Marty, a tax accountant who works with dozens of dispensaries across the state.

“Depending on where they’re at it can be catastrophic,” says Marty, who adds that the situation is particularly onerous for dispensaries just starting out.

“If they have losses—real, cash-basis losses—it can be a shock to them to find out that they owe taxes in years when they haven’t made any money.”

In California, 280E is even a problem for nonprofit dispensaries. Aaron Smith with the National Cannabis Industry Association says stores that sell medical marijuana can’t get tax-exempt status from the IRS. That means they’re filing taxes as for-profit businesses.

“The cruel irony behind this is that illegal drug dealers almost never even file income taxes,” he says. “So this provision really only affects the legitimate state-licensed marijuana providers.”

The Association recently hired a full-time lobbyist to push reform in Congress. In Colorado, a solution could come from the courts. Arguments on one dispensary’s tax case are expected to be heard later this year.

Source: http://kunc.org/post/colorados-marijuana-industry-seeks-income-tax-reform

Posted in Colorado Law, Taxes | Tagged | Leave a comment