Parachute voters approve marijuana excise tax
Parachute voters Tuesday approved an excise tax on unprocessed marijuana, with 65 percent of the 164 votes in favor of the ordinance.
A 5 percent tax will be levied on unprocessed marijuana sold or transferred from a cultivation facility to a retail establishment. Language in the ordinance caps the amount of revenue generated in the fiscal year starting Jan. 1, 2016, at $200,000.
Since repealing the town’s ban on marijuana establishments in June, town trustees have approved four retail licenses and one manufacturing license, but have not yet considered an application for a cultivation license.
Two are currently being reviewed by town staff, and they could appear before the planning and zoning board for special review next Thursday, said Stuart McArthur, town manager.
If those applications are approved next week, they would not appear before trustees until the December meeting, according to McArthur. Two more retail license applications are currently being reviewed by staff, and one could appear before trustees at their meeting Nov. 19.
The marijuana issue has been divisive for the town, which is struggling with a loss of sales tax revenue in the face of the current natural gas slump. In October, the citizen-initiated group Let the People Vote successfully filed petitions to recall Mayor Roy McClung, along with trustees Tim Olk, Tom Rugaard and John Loschke, all of whom voted to repeal the town’s ban. It did not file to recall Mayor Pro-Tem Juanita Williams, who also voted to repeal the ban, because she is up for election in April.
A group of business owners and other residents spoke in support of the trustees and their decision at an October meeting.
Along with the recall, the opposition also filed a lawsuit alleging the town failed to follow proper procedures when trustees approved the first two retail applications in September.
Parachute resident Pam Jarrett, who has led much of the opposition, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The town has since filed a response to the lawsuit with the court, McArthur said. As for the recall effort, the board will have to certify the election, which will likely be included in the already-planned April election. McArthur expects the matter to be brought before the board in either the November or December meeting.
As for Tuesday’s vote, McArthur said he is not drawing any conclusions from the support for the excise tax.
“I don’t know why a lot of people voted the way they voted,” he said. “I don’t pretend to interpret votes.”
Tuesday was not the last time Parachute residents will vote on a marijuana-related issue.
Let the People Vote successfully petitioned to put a ban on marijuana establishments on the ballot. However, due to a provision in Amendment 64 — the statewide initiative legalizing recreational marijuana — voters will not get to decide that issue until November 2016.
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Winter Park could see marijuana dispensaries in town as early as 2022 after the town council approved retail and medical marijuana sales, as well as medical marijuana delivery services.