Extras on Excise: Colorado Marijuana Refunds Go Up in Smoke After Voters Approve Proposition BB

Marijuana and Cash

On Nov. 3, Colorado voters approved proposition BB-Retain Revenue in Excess of Blue Book Estimate. The proposition allows Colorado to retain and spend $66.1 million in tax revenue collected from the first year of marijuana sales. The proposition passed with almost 70 percent of voters electing for the state to keep the revenue. 

Colorado has a provision in place that requires the return of tax revenue that is over the estimated budget revenue for newly approved taxes in a one-time refund. However, since Proposition BB passed, the excess revenue is retained by Colorado and used for various government programs. 

Programs funded by Proposition BB:

  • $40 million will be sent on school construction through the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program; and
  • $12 million will be spent to fund the following state programs:
    • $2.5 million to marijuana education;
    • $2 million to school bullying prevention;
    • $2 million to grants for programs to prevent students from dropping out of school;
    • $2 million for youth mentoring services;
    • $1 million to poison control centers;
    • $1 million to local government marijuana impact grants;
    • $500,000 to substance abuse screenings, intervention, and referral;
    • $500,000 to substance abuse treatment;
    • $300,000 to the Future Farmers of America and 4-H programs at the Colorado State Fair;
    • $200,000 to training peace officers to recognize impaired drivers; and
  • the remainder to be decided in the future.

    Although it seems as if Colorado taxpayers are being completely altruistic by giving up a tax refund, there is more to the story. If Proposition BB had not passed, the marijuana tax revenue collected would have been refunded pursuant to a specific design. Colorado would have refunded $25 million in rebates, averaging $8.00 per full-time Colorado resident who files a 2015 state income tax return, $24 million would have been refunded to marijuana cultivators, and $17.1 million would have been refunded to retail marijuana purchasers through a temporary reduction in the retail marijuana sales tax rate.