KUSA - Colorado voters are beginning to receive ballots for the Nov. 5 election, in which two separate tax questions will be decided.
9NEWS hosted a debate between the two sides of Prop AA Monday, which would enact a pair of taxes on recreational marijuana.
On one side, Rep. Dan Pabon, a Democrat from Denver, chaired the Amendment 64 task force that came up with this tax structure. He is the chair of the "Yes on AA" Committee.
Sean McAllister debated against Rep. Rabon. McAllister is with "NORML," a pro-marijuana group that opposes Proposition AA's taxes. He is a local attorney who has worked on several efforts to decriminalize marijuana, including Amendment 64.
9NEWS Political Reporter Brandon Rittiman hosted the debate, and asked Pabon and McAllister the following questions.
QUESTION FOR MCALLISTER: Last year-Colorado voters said they wanted legal sales of marijuana. Since then-- there's been a lot of work by a lot of people to make it happen. And the US Justice Department indicates it's going to allow our little experiment to go forward. Aren't you a little worried about the feds would react if we rejected the taxes intended to regulate pot?
QUESTION FOR PABON: This is new ground for the state-- and because of that, I can remember a lot of discussion about how there's no real way to know what the costs to the state are going to be. How do you know you need this much tax on pot?
QUESTION FOR MCALLISTER: Plenty of voters out there don't use pot. They don't like pot. They're never gonna smoke pot. To them this whole thing may come down to "so what if the taxes are a burden? It's a drug!" Maybe one they don't find particularly pleasant when they smell it out in public. Why should people care enough to vote against this if they have no interest in pot?
QUESTION FOR PABON: This proposed tax has really angered a section of pro-marijuana supporters-who can in all fairness point out that the taxes in Prop AA are way heavier than taxes on alcohol. How is this fair?
QUESTION FOR MCALLISTER: State officials say if this ballot question fails-they can't do this right. That they'll jack up the license fees for stores-so much that only the wealthiest owners will be able to sell recreational pot. Are they bluffing? And more broadly-what do you think happens next if you actually defeat Prop AA?
QUESTION FOR PABON: I want to talk about that new concept of an adjustable tax-lawmakers would have the power to do this without going back to the voters. What's the intent there-- under what circumstances do you envision that tax rate being raised?
Legal sales of the drug to people over 21 are set to begin in January.
State lawmakers approved taking the taxes to ballot, calling them necessary to pay for enforcing regulations on the drug.
Opponents say the taxes are too burdensome and could undermine the effort to eliminate the black market, by making the legal product too expensive.
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